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Physical activity in children starts to decrease by age seven

Physical activity levels may start to tail off as young as seven, rather than during adolescence as is widely thought, say UK researchers. 

Physical activity levels may start to tail off as young as seven, rather than during adolescence as is widely thought, say UK researchers. 


The study findings questioned the orthodox view that physical activity declines
much more rapidly in adolescent girls than boys. Picture: iStock

They tracked the physical activity levels of about 400 children taking part in the Gateshead Millennium Cohort Study in north east England between 2006 and 2015. 

Physical activity levels were measured at ages seven, nine, 12 and 15, using a small portable monitor called an Actigraph. Worn for seven days at a time, the device recorded activity for 15-second intervals. 

19.8%

of children aged 10-11 were obese and 14.3% were overweight in 2015-16 

Source: Public Health England 

The researchers found that the total volume of activity fell from the age of seven onwards in both boys and girls, with declines no steeper during adolescence than in earlier childhood. 

Refocusing research 

This is 'inconsistent with the orthodox view that physical activity begins to decline at adolescence, declines much more rapidly at adolescence and/or declines much more rapidly in adolescent girls than boys,' the study authors said. 

They added that the findings indicate a shift in research focus might be needed.

'The study questions the concept of the adolescent girl as a priority for research and policy efforts in physical activity,' they said. 


Farooq MA et al (2017) Timing of the decline in physical activity in childhood and adolescence: Gateshead Millennium Cohort Study. British Journal of Sports Medicine. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096933 

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