Just one in 10 Scottish children achieve recommended levels of physical activity every day, a new study conducted for the Scottish Government has revealed.
Opposition politicians claimed the findings were “alarming” at a time when obesity is a major problem for Scottish children.
According to the research, the vast majority of 10 and 11-year-olds in Scotland were failing to meet guidelines, which say they should do at least one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise daily.
The findings were based on information provided by 774 10 and 11-year-olds taking part in the long-standing “Growing Up in Scotland” study.
It found that on average children were sedentary for 7.5 hours per day (7.7 hours during weekdays and 7.1 hours on weekends).
Just 11 per cent of children managed 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) every day.
This figure rose to 60 per cent when the requirement to breach the one hour barrier every day was removed and the average amount of moderate to physical activity per day was calculated across a longer period.
On average it was found that children spent 73 minutes in moderate to vigorous physical activity per day – 76 minutes per weekday and 64 minutes per weekend day.
Boys were more active than girls with males spending 78 minutes in MVPA compared with 68 minutes.
Physical activity was measured by children reporting how much exercise they took or by wearing an activity monitor.
The study found that a slightly higher proportion of children from deprived areas met the guidelines, but the difference was not statistically significant.
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “This is a problem for everyone, regardless of deprivation or gender – the entire country is impacted. “From a public health perspective, it’s alarming that so few children are doing enough exercise each day. “We’ve always known activity levels in Scotland are lower than they should be. “But people will be stunned that just 11 per cent of youngsters are doing enough. We already have severe problems with obesity north of the border, and all the health complications that brings. “Going on this survey, that situation is only going to get worse in the years and decades to come. If the Scottish Government doesn’t take strong action to address this now, thousands upon thousands of Scots will suffer the implications further down the line.” Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said: “This is a worrying report, with just 11 per cent of children meeting the recommended levels of exercise. “We have a serious problem in this country with childhood obesity, and this report shows things are not getting any better. “SNP ministers have repeatedly failed to deal with this crisis, with the number of home economics teachers having plummeted since they came to power and the SNP government failing to provide outdoor sports facilities to schools. “Labour would stop the SNP’s cuts and would invest in education in Scotland.”
Scottish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the Scottish Government must invest more in encouraging healthy living. Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Healthy eating and lifestyle choices start in childhood. These new statistics confirm the need for children to be spending less time vegetating and more time exercising outside despite the ropey Scottish weather.
“The strain on our waist line creates a strain on our NHS. We already spend hundreds of millions of pounds every year treating conditions that are ultimately avoidable. Weight related conditions like heart disease and cancer put huge strain on our NHS. Unless we take action now our NHS faces an obesity time bomb that will only increase pressure on services.
“We need to ensure that parents get the support they need to give their children a healthy start in life. Scottish Liberal Democrats would invest in sport and promote healthy lifestyles as well as extend the rights of GPs to social prescribing, including free access to exercise programmes if they judge it will help the health and well being of an individual.”
Aileen Campbell, Minister for Public Health and Sport, said: “The Growing up in Scotland Study found that 60% of 10-11-year-olds are active for at least 60 minutes a day on average. This follows on from the most recent Scottish Health Survey, which found that 73% of two to 15-year-olds were active for at least 60 minutes a day.
“This government is working to create a culture where children are as active as possible, helping to develop good habits throughout life. We have made a commitment for Scotland to become the first Daily Mile nation, with more than two in five primary schools currently taking part. Further details of this will be announced later this month.
“The proportion of schools offering two hours or periods of PE per week has increased from less than 10% in 2004/5 to 98% in 2016 – thanks to an £11.6 million investment. We have also invested £50 million in the successful Active Schools programme, along with a significant investment in new facilities.
“We want to go further, particularly to encourage more teenage girls to be active. Our £300,000 sporting equality fund will encourage more girls and women to take part in sport at all levels. We are also continuing to invest in the sportscotland’s Active Girls programme, specifically working with teenage girls.”