Lack of children's exercise policy is 'child neglect'

 
Hopscotch in playground Children from all backgrounds and sporting abilities should have the opportunity to exercise daily, the British Journal of Sports Medicine says

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Lack of a proper national policy to get UK children to do more exercise amounts to mass "child neglect", the British Journal of Sports Medicine says.

An editorial in the magazine says successive governments have failed to implement a comprehensive national policy to promote children's exercise.

A sedentary lifestyle risks storing up health and other problems, it argues.

Former Children's Minister Tim Loughton called the comments alarmist and unhelpful.

The editorial says that despite a wealth of evidence showing the immediate and long-term benefits of regular exercise in childhood and the expanding waistlines of UK children, leadership and strategy on the issue "are totally absent".

Co-author Dr Richard Weiler, a consultant in sport and exercise medicine at University College London and club doctor at West Ham football club said: "There has been a persistent failure from this government and former governments to meet children's basic physical and psychological needs."

Funding 'pitiful'

He told BBC Radio's Today programme that this failure "meets the government's own definition of child neglect."

He called the level of finance allocated to promote physical activity among children "pitiful".

He said schools had a key role to play in promoting physical activity as "children don't choose who their parents are".

"At the moment there is no statutory obligation for schools even to provide physical activity and physical literacy and Ofsted don't monitor it," he added.

But Mr Loughton said: "I don't know if the British Journal of Sports Medicine is trying to promote a Christmas special, but this sort of sensationalist story is really unhelpful.

"I agree we need to do much more for kids and sport, making it a part of their growing up, something that they want to do because it's fun and enjoyable as well as being good for them - but child neglect is a persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and psychological needs, resulting in serious impairment of health and that is a world of difference from kids not doing enough sport.

'Finger wagging'

"Is Dr Weiler suggesting we should be taking millions more children into the care of the state? Because that's not the solution."

Mr Loughton said he agreed with Dr Weiler's diagnosis but accused him of alarmist finger wagging, adding that parents also had a role to play and that making sport and physical activity mandatory in schools risked putting children off "from a very early age".

He added the government's programme for the School Games, a national competition for elite young athletes, would promote more physical activity and sport and had already proved "a tremendous success".

But Dr Weiler said it was naive and short-sighted to focus on sport rather than physical activity, showing "a lack of understanding of children's heath and wellbeing and their development".

The editorial calls for current and future governments and educational bodies to act to create a comprehensive child-centred physical activity policy to give children from all backgrounds and sporting abilities every opportunity to be active on a daily basis.

 

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 317.

    We really live in such a nanny state. Children not getting enough exercise? Ask politicians about them continually allowing councils to sell of sports and football grounds to developers then. Also not keeping promises about sports funding following the Olympics.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 307.

    Why does there always have to be a "policy" about things, often - let's be honest - trivial things - while there is never a policy to deal with the really important things that affect the majority?

    Children not getting "enough" exercise (whose definition?) are NOT suffering neglect. Not everyone is sporty, and these days open, safe areas for children to play are rare - having been flogged off.

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 158.

    My two nephews (5 and 3) spend Saturday morning at mini rugby, Sunday morning swimming, ride their bikes or skateboards, run and climb at the park and join their parents when they exercise their 3 dogs. Being active is normal to them because my sister and husband (who both work FT) are active - whatever schools do it's hard if parents won't invest time and set a good example.

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 146.

    It's an insult to the memory of children who suffer REAL abuse and merely serves to harden attitudes to when genuine abuse occurs. Child abuse is a serious matter and not one that should be kicked around like a political football or invoked to make an obscure body feel it's doing something worthwhile.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 52.

    What's the point in the government telling parents their kids should be more active when schools all over the country are selling off playing fields.
    The problem starts with the adults. Less than 1 in 3 get enough exercise. If the parents exercised themselves, the children would be happy to follow.

 

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