Children attending sports camps are showing increasing levels of unfitness, with only one child in five now getting an hour’s exercise a day according to a leading PE teacher.
And television viewing now represents the single biggest activity among children, with the average primary school child spending 2.6 hours daily in sedentary leisure pursuits while this figure increases drastically to about 4.2 hours per day amongst post-primary children, according to surveys on children’s sports participation and physical activity.
Eileen Sheehy, a PE teacher and co-founder of Let’s Go sports camps, says this inactivity is a worrying development. “We see at our camps there is an increasing lack of fitness in young people. 99 per cent of children spend more than 2 hours watching TV/consoles every day. Only 19% of primary school children meet the Health Department’s recommended 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day.”
“It is no accident that those who do exercise for the prescribed daily period happen to enjoy the best health profile of all children. This number increases if children take part in extra-school sport.”
“Sedentary behaviour often correlates to overweight or obesity due to increased food intake and decreased activity levels. A recent survey conducted by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs called Growing Up in Ireland found that 19% of 9-year-olds are overweight while 7% are obese. Diet plays a significant role with 25% of the calorie intake of children aged between 5 and 12 years of age supplied by biscuits, sugars and fats, whilst 51% of children eat sweets every day.”
“There are currently 300,000 overweight or obese children in Ireland with this figure increasing by 10,000 per annum meaning the problem has reached crisis levels. Despite increased public awareness, the issue does not appear to be resolving. It can prove very damaging for children, both in the short and long term, to be allowed to sit around, sleep in and become inactive. It is important to get into the habit of exercising at an early age as youth overweight and obesity is a good predictor for adult overweight and obesity with 50% of overweight children becoming overweight adults, whilst 80% of overweight adolescents will become overweight adults.”
Physical activity is important in ensuring a higher quality of life. And with a greater range of activity choices there is more chance of children finding something which interests them according to Let’s Go co-founder and PE teacher Kevin O’Brien.
“At Let’s Go Summer Camps, we believe in creating a positive environment for our participants. With increased choice for sporting endeavour, our camps cater for every preference. This helps children become involved in physical activity from an early age, reducing their chances of overweight or obesity in later life.”
Let’s Go has been operating award-winning summer camps for children aged between 5 and 13 years of age for over 20 years. This July and August, Let’s Go has organised 126 camps across the country. Please log onto www.letsgo.ie for further information or to download an application form.