Children need more chances to be active in winter, new study finds

outdoorswinterChildren are not active enough in the autumn and winter months. They also spend too much time sitting indoors compared to other times of the year.

According to researchers from the University of Cambridge, children are most active during weekends in early summer, and least active during weekends in winter.

The researchers used information on more than 700 members of Child of the New Century. When you were aged 7, we asked a number of you to wear activity monitors – devices that track your when you’re active and when you’re resting.

When you were seven years old, you were most active in April, getting an average of 65.3 minutes of exercise per day. You were least active in February, getting an average of 47.8 minutes per day.

UK public health guidelines recommend that children should take in at least one hour of physical activity every day. This could include brisk walking, running, sports or exercise. They also recommend that children avoid sitting for long periods of time.

Boys were more active than girls overall. On average, boys were active for at least one hour even during winter. Girls only tended to reach the recommended minimum during the summer.

“Physical activity is important for children’s health and development, but many do not get enough exercise,” says Dr Andrew Atkin, one of the researchers. “During spring and summer, when the weather is better and the days are longer, they tend to be playing out and are more active, but during the darker, colder months, they are much less so.”

The findings help make the case for more programmes aimed at encouraging physical activity among children during winter, especially on the weekends.

“Children need to be given more opportunities to be active, particularly during the winter months and when the weather is bad,” explains Dr Esther van Sluijs, another researcher on the project. “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.”