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Monday, 22 April, 2002, 10:47 GMT 11:47 UK
Why children need exercise
Children watching TV
One in three children doesn't exercise enough
Just one hour of exercise a day could transform the health of children not just now but well into their adult lives.

Figures published by the British Heart Foundation in 2000 show that one in three children between the ages of two and seven do not achieve even the minimum recommended levels of exercise.

By the time they are 15, almost two thirds of girls do so little exercise that they are classified as "inactive".

Instilling an activity habit in children when they are young is vital

Dr Joanne Wellsman, Exeter University
In the past 10 years, the number of obese six year olds has doubled while the number of obese 15 year olds has tripled.

However, the BHF and the Health Education Authority recommend that children between the ages of five and 18 participate in at least one hour of moderate intensity every day.


This activity can include a range of activities such as:

  • brisk walking
  • swimming
  • cycling
  • dancing

    Both groups also recommend that at least twice a week children engage in activity that enhances muscular strength, flexibility and bone health. This can include:

  • climbing
  • skipping
  • jumping
  • gymnastics

    Experts believe that just an hour of exercise a day can help to fight obesity in children, which in turn can fight diabetes and heart disease later in life and even premature death.

    They warn that many of the key risk factors for coronary heart disease can be seen at an early age.

    Conditions such as high blood pressure are common in children who are overweight or obese and are a major contributory factor to later coronary heart disease.

    Many believe that the key to encouraging more children to take up exercise is to ensure they participate in physical activity at an early age.

    Changing habits

    Dr Joanne Wellsman, a senior research fellow at Exeter University and expert in children's health, said: "A lot of children are leading very sedentary lives and the problem appears to be that activity is linked to lifestyle and the fact that inactive children are much more likely to become inactive adults.

    "While we can't say that their inactivity is causing health problems right now, we can say that it is going to lead to serious problems later in life, such as diabetes and coronary heart disease.

    "Instilling an activity habit in children when they are young is vital."

  • See also:

    22 Apr 02 | Scotland
    Scots children join heart study
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