Kids need help to be active in winter: study

Little boy with basketball

The Heart Foundation has supported the findings of a University of Cambridge study which concluded that children should be helped to be more active during winter.

“Public health guidelines state that children should accumulate at least an hour per day of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity, which might include brisk walking or running, active participation in sports or exercising,” the study’s authors write.

“At the same time, children should minimise the amount of time they spend sitting for extended periods.”

The researchers found that physical activity was lower in autumn and winter compared to spring; average activity levels across the group peaked in April at 65.3 min/day and reached their lowest levels in February at 47.8 minutes a day.

Physical activity was at its lowest at weekends during winter. Children were at their most active during early summer, particularly at weekends.

“Children need to be given more opportunities to be active, particularly during the winter months and when the weather is bad,” says Dr Esther van Sluijs, the study’s senior author, from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research.

“This might include better access to indoor spaces where children can be active or through schools changing their policies related to the use of indoor and outdoor spaces during bad weather.”

Australia’s National Heart Foundation says eight out of 10 Australian children fail to meet minimum national guidelines of at least 60 minutes’ physical activity each day.

“Not only does Australia experience cooler months with bad weather, but its warmer climate during the summer months can also pose a challenge for children being active,” says Foundation CEO Professor Gary Jennings.

“We need to start looking at ways to encourage physical activity despite the outside conditions.

“This could include better access to indoor sports spaces or through schools altering their rules related to the use of indoor and outdoor spaces during bad or extreme weather.

“Children have an innate, in-built need to be physically active, and as a nation we need to do more to encourage and facilitate active play time, when and where possible regardless of weather.”

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