Many experts believe that introducing healthy habits—like regular physical activity—at an early age can lead to a lifetime of health. It seems some people in the United Kingdom missed the memo.

Published in the BMJ Open (2013; 3:e002893), the report featured accelerometer data on 6,497 7- to 8-year-old children from across the U.K. Data was included only if it accounted for at least 10 hours over a minimum of 2 days. The researchers looked at “physical activity in counts per minute; time spent in sedentary and [moderate to vigorous] physical activity [MVPA]; proportion of children meeting Chief Medical Officer guidelines (≥60 minutes/day MVPA); and average daily steps.”

According to the results, the children spent a median of 60 minutes engaged in physical activity daily but were inactive for a median of 6.4 hours. About half of the subjects met CMO guidelines, with boys (n = 63%) significantly outpacing girls (n = 38%). The children took an average of 10,299 steps daily. Certain ethnic groups, as well as children from certain areas, were less active.

“Children of Indian ethnicity were significantly less active overall than all other ethnic groups,” the authors observed. “Children of Bangladeshi origin and those living in Northern Ireland were least likely to meet CMO guidelines.”

The researchers added that studies spanning longer periods of time are necessary to better understand physical activity patterns.

“In the meantime,” they concluded, “population-wide efforts to boost physical activity among young people are needed [and those efforts] are likely to require a broad range of policy interventions.”

Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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