In Brief

Four in five children not active enough, says WHO

Report warns that global epidemic of inactivity is putting youngsters’ health at risk

Four out of five 11- to 17-year-olds around the world are failing to do a healthy amount of exercise, a global analysis has found.

Research by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that there had been almost no improvement in physical activity among those aged 11 to 17 since 2001.

“Active adolescents are likely to be active adults,” says study author Dr Regina Guthold. “They have better cognitive function, easier learning, they have better pro-social behaviour.”

The WHO found a significant gender gap, with girls less active than boys in almost every country they looked at - only Afghanistan, Samoa, Tonga and Zambia found girls to be more active.

The study, published in the The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal, found that while there had been some improvement in physical activity among boys in the past year, there had been none among girls.

Dr Guthold said “urgent policy action” was required, “particularly to promote and retain girls’ participation in physical activity”.

The study was carried out across 146 countries by surveying schoolchildren. In the UK, 2016 results showed that almost 75% of boys and more than 85% of girls were not active enough, reports The Guardian.

One in three children in the UK are overweight before they finish primary school, and only 18% eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day, says the Daily Mail.

NHS figures last month showed nearly a quarter (24.6%) of 10- and 11-year-olds are obese in England, and 34.3% are overweight.

The WHO’s global target for getting adolescents moving is unlikely to be met, something Dr Fiona Bull, an author and the WHO’s lead expert on physical activity, said was “a major concern”.

“This is not the good start in life that we would want for our children and adolescents,” said Bull. “The data are worrying for all – parents, the community and the health system.”

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