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Children's exercise overestimated

Physical activity levels among children in the UK are likely to be around six times lower than national data suggest, according to new research.

Figures showing that children have been increasingly physically active over the past few years have relied on information supplied by parents, rather than on studies of the children themselves.

But now researchers, writing in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, have revealed data based on monitoring of actual levels of physical activity in 130 children aged between six and seven. The youngsters were monitored, over the period of a week, using a portable recording device (an accelerometer) mounted on a belt.

The readings from this study were compared with information supplied by parents, using the Health Survey for England annual questionnaire.

Parents said their children were moderately to vigorously physically active for an average of 146 minutes a day, but the accelerometer readings showed that this figure was actually 24 minutes a day, with boys managing 26 minutes and girls 22.

According to the survey data, 83% of boys and 56% of girls complied with the recommended daily amounts of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity. Again, the accelerometer showed this to be false, with only 3% of boys and 2% of girls actually doing the recommended 60 minutes.

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Archives of Disease in Childhood