"If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health." Hippocrates
Even in 400BC Hippocrates ‘the father of western medicine’ recognised the importance of levels of exercise in health. Now, nearly 2500 years later, we are still grappling with the same problem i.e. finding the ‘just right level’ of exercise and food to keep healthy.
|Getting the balance right?|
Two recent reports have highlighted levels of exercise or rather the ‘too little’ aspect of exercise
Activity in the Early Years
Last week saw the publication of the report on activity levels in British children in the UK.
The report, titled ‘How active are our children? Findings from the recent Millennium Cohort Study’(https://www.bmjopen-2013-002893), notes that:
- Only 51% of 7-year-old UK children achieve current recommendations for daily physical exercise i.e. 1 hour of moderate (still being able to have a conversation whilst doing the activity) and vigorous (more difficult to talk whilst doing the activity) activity per day.
- Girls were significantly less active than boys: 38% compared to 63%
- 50% of all UK 7 year olds were sedentary for over 6 hours per day.
Apart from these headline grabbing statistics, the paper highlights the following:
- It recognised the importance of physical activity, not only to for a healthy heart and bones but also its effect on psychological self-esteem
|Tatty Bumpkin Lions - Be as strong as a lion - feel strong!|
- Levels of physical activity as well as sedentary behaviour tend be set at an early age and are hard to change with age. Hence children with low levels of activity may be at risk of continuing at this level in later life. No doubt with this in mind they plan to do follow up studies to examine the consequences of this level of activity for health in later childhood and adolescence
|'In an active life is sown the seed of wisdom' Edward Young|
- Currently schemes to promote activity levels are not working and that a “A comprehensive policy response is needed to boost physical activity and decrease sedentary time among all young children”
Activity in Adults and the Elderly
Another report came out this summer from a research team based at Bristol University, on the levels of physical activity in the adult population in England titled ‘The Socioeconomic Gradient in Physical Inactivity in England’ (www.bristol.ac.uk/cmpo/publications/papers/2013/wp311.pdf)
Again their results made startling reading:
- Generally levels of physical inactivity in England are very high.
- Nearly 80% of adults do not hit key national government targets i.e. Adults aged 19 – 64 yrs are recommended to do 2.5 hours per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as cycling or fast walking plus strengthening exercises.
- In a four-week period
- about 8% of the adults, that can walk, did not walk continuously for a period of five minutes or more
- 46% of adults had not spent 30 minutes walking for leisure
- 20% of over 16-year-olds only do minimal exercise
- There was a significant relationship between socio-economic position and levels of activity. This finding, backed up by previous research, suggests that: lower incomes tend to led to more inactivity, this is understandable as less money to spend on leisure means less choice, and that more education appears to enable people to be more active with a given set of resources, education possibly increasing awareness of the consequences of inactivity.
- There was clear evidence of a link between activity, income and age. The correlation between income and physical activity seemed to increase with age. Hence poverty in old age appears to lead to greater inactivity.
The study concluded that:
- England is building up a large future health problem
- A wide range of social, economic and cultural aspects of English society need to be targeted to influence behaviour around activity
- Many current campaigns may not be reaching those who need them most.
In SummaryPhysical inactivity is increasingly recognised as:
- An important precursor of chronic ill health with large costs for both individuals and society
- Potentially the most important health behaviour that we can change to prevent chronic disease
So, whilst being mindful of the benefits of traditional sporting activities and our ‘Olympic legacy’, surely it makes sense to think more creatively about exercise:
- Introducing our very young children to exercise in an inspiring, fun, non-daunting way. Appreciating that ‘every child is a unique child’
- Bringing more movement into the school curriculum. Introducing activity opportunities for our children throughout their whole school day, not just restricting it to playground and PE activities i.e. short ‘movement breaks’
- Providing a wider range of activities to children in the PE curriculum and the playground. Including activities which offer children choice, enabling them to feel in control and not under pressure i.e. dance, yoga, walking.
- Supporting each other in exercise throughout their lives. Recognising we are all motivated to move in different ways and by different things and that some of us may need more support at different points in our lives
- Highlighting the importance of exercise – as Hippocrates said the right level nourishment and exercise is the safest way to health.
'Cat lapping up her milk' activity makes press ups fun! And as they activate the shoulder girdle muscles they are an excellent pre-writing activity
Find your local Tatty Bumpkin class at http://www.tattybumpkin.com/classes/find-class.html
Griffiths LJ, Cortina-Borja M, Sera F, et al. How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study. BMJ Open 2013
The Socioeconomic Gradient in Physical Inactivity in England. Lisa Farrell, Bruce Hollingsworth, Carol Propper and Michael A.Shields July 2013. Working Paper No. 13/311