This press release was distributed in October 2013 to mark the launch of the Commission
MPs and peers launch new Commission aimed at increasing levels of physical activity among children
New poll data shows UK parents concerned over lack of physical activity in children, as 70% do less than the recommended weekly amount
Today marks the launch of the first ever Commission on Physical Activity, chaired by politicians from across the political spectrum: (Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, Charlotte Leslie MP, Julian Huppert MP, and Barbara Keeley MP). The new Commission is confronting the urgent issue of physical inactivity in children in the UK. The Commission is supported by: the British Heart Foundation; Sustrans; Premier League; Lawn Tennis Association; Nike; The Young Foundation; Lord Sebastian Coe; as well as a number of high profile sportsmen and women such as world class athletes Mark Cavendish and Dai Greene.
The Commission will take a cross-sector approach to investigating the physical inactivity epidemic, taking evidence from organisations and individuals across the Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education sectors. It will make direct, policy-based recommendations on how to get children and young people moving more in everyday life, in an independent report to be published in March 2014.
Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said:
“To fight the epidemic of physical inactivity in the UK, and get more children moving, we need a collaborative approach. The Commission on Physical Activity will be taking evidence from many different experts and sectors and I encourage everyone with something to say to take part. We will be making recommendations on what needs to change, to make physical activity an enjoyable part of everyday life, for every child.”
Mark Cavendish said:
“Everyone should be concerned about the levels of physical activity amongst children in the UK and globally. I got inspired to get on my bike young and being involved in sport has become a massive part of my life. It’s so important that kids get active at an early age and create a sporting habit for life. I’m really pleased to be at today’s launch of the new Commission and see this issue on the political agenda.”
To coincide with the launch of the Commission, new polling carried out by Populus (of 1502 parents of children aged between 3-11 yrs old) reveals that many parents believe that children nowadays do not take part in enough physical activity. 62% say they would like to see their children moving more and 70% of parents admit their children do six hours or less of physical activity per week – less than the recommended daily amount of activity for children of 60 minutes per day[i].
- Nearly half (44%) of parents feel that their child does less physical activity than they did themselves when young – those parents felt this difference is mainly due to increased concerns around child safety (61%) and a greater reliance on and access to technology (41%). Greater costs, having less time available and greater reliance on other methods of transport were also mentioned as common barriers[ii].
- When asked which activities their child spends most time doing (excluding school sports lessons) the majority of parents (61%) stated walking to school – 40% said swimming, 33% said playing organised sports and 25% said cycling. Parents of younger children stated that using a mini scooter is a favoured activity of choice[iii].
- Parents identified the main barriers to getting their children moving, as being concern over child safety when playing outside (37%), cost of equipment / club membership (36%) and lack of their time to accompany the child (30%) – on average, parents spent 2.05 hours every week doing (or supervising) physical activity with their children. A third (35%) of respondents said they spend just up to 1 hour.
- Parents use a number of different methods to encourage their children to do physical activity. The most common methods included making physical exercise fun (63%), making it part of daily life (49%), and taking part in physical activity with their child (41%).
- Parents are acutely aware of the benefits of exercise, with almost two-thirds (64%) citing health benefits as the main benefit for the child being physically active – benefits such as young people who are active being more likely to be successful in life[iv], or be less likely to smoke or take drugs[v] were less well known[vi].
The polling of parents supports recent research from the BMJ’s “How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study” which found only half of 7 year-olds in the UK achieve recommended levels of physical activity[vii]. Further research from Designed To Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda[viii], shows that from 1961 to 2005, levels of physical activity in the UK dropped by 20% and if current trends continue, will reduce by more than 35% by 2030[ix]. As a direct result, obesity, diabetes and many more health disorders are becoming increasingly prevalent. Physical inactivity also costs the UK economy £20 billion annually (almost the entire NHS annual efficiency target)[x].
In addition to evidence from experts across the Health, Sport, Transport & Urban Planning, and Education sectors, the Commission also welcomes the submission of oral or written evidence from individuals and organisations across any sector, from parents, policy makers and teachers to ministers and party leaders. Evidence can be submitted online before 31st December via
The Commission will publish an independent report, written in partnership with The Young Foundation, which will be published in March 2014 and make recommendations to policy makers and party leaders on how to end this crisis of physical inactivity.
Notes to Editors
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from Populus. Total sample size was 1,502 adults who have a child or children aged between 3 – 11 years old. Where a respondent had more than one child within this age range they were asked to respond regarding their eldest child in the age group. Fieldwork was undertaken between 15th – 22nd October. The survey was carried out online.
[i] When asked how much physical activity their child does per week 70% of respondents answered that their child spends less than 6 hours doing physical activity per week. Physical activity was defined as continuous movement for a period of at least 10 minutes with a purpose (i.e. walking to school/clubs, active play, organised sports). The recommended daily amount of activity for children is 60 minutes per day (Department of Health. Start active, stay active: a report on physical activity from the four home countries’ Chief Medical Officers. 11-7-0011).
[ii] Of those parents who answered that their child does less activity than they did, 35% cited greater costs, 27% cited less time available and 26% cited greater reliance on other methods of transport as causes.
[iii] 30% of parents of 3-4 year olds, and 32% of parents of 5-7 year olds cited using a mini scooter as one of the activities their child spends most time doing excluding physical activity during school sports lessons.
[iv] When asked for their opinion on the main benefits of their child being physically active 5% of respondents cited that their child would benefit by being more successful in their life. Research shows that active teenagers will be more likely to score higher on achievement tests (Grissom, J. (2005). Physical Fitness and Academic Achievement. Journal of Exercise Physiology, 8(1), pp.11-25, as cited in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012)) and go to college (Lleras, C. (2008). Do skills and behaviours in high school matter? The contribution of noncognitive factors in explaining differences in educational attainment and earnings. Social Science Research. 37, pp. 888-902, as cited in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012)).
[v] When asked for their opinion on the main benefits of their child being physically active 5% of respondents cited a benefit as being that their child would be less likely to smoke, drink or take drugs. However, research has shown that young people who participate in organized sports at school or in their communities are less likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as cigarette smoking and drug use, than non-sports participants. Jones-Palm D H, Palm J. “Physical Activity and Its Impact On Health Behaviour Among Youth” World Health Organisation (2005), as cited in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).
[vii] BMJ “How active are our children? Findings from the Millennium Cohort Study” by Lucy Griffiths, Mario Cortina-Borja, Francesco Sera, et al. BMJ Open 2013 3: doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-00289.
[viii] MacCallum L., Howson N., Gopu N, Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).
[ix] Ng S. W. and Popkin B. “Time Use and Physical Activity: a shift away from movement across the globe.” As referenced in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).
[x] Chaaban, J. “The Economic Costs of Physical Inactivity.” (2012), as referenced in Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda (2012).