UK Children Adopting Sedentary Lifestyles as Obesity Blooms

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Wikimedia, Creative Commons)

Early childhood experts at Loughborough University's School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences tested 45 Foundation Stage children attending two different schools and found that more children were experiencing difficulties with coordination and balance than were formerly estimated — and the problems were affecting their ability to learn.

The Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) sets criteria for the learning, advancement, and caretaking of the UK's children from birth to 5-years-old. Scientists used numerous tests to examine young ones' physical development at the beginning of the school year and discovered that less than 30% were "of concern" and nearly 90% showed some degree of struggle with movement.

The assessments revealed as many as 30% of Foundation Stage children started school with symptoms associated with ADHD, dyslexia, and developmental coordination disorder (dyspraxia), according to ScienceDaily.

An auxiliary report questioned more than 25 primary school Foundation Stage teachers and revealed that instructors believe that more kids are beginning school with less physical readiness than they have seen before. Eighty percent of the educators made the observation that the decrease has occurred in the last three to six years.

Study leader Dr. Rebecca Duncombe said:

"A child's physical development level impacts their ability to complete simple tasks such as sitting still, holding a pencil, putting on their shoes, and especially reading — all skills essential for school."

"Our research shows that not only are children starting school less physically ready than ever before, but that teachers are noticing this change and its impact in the classroom."

Duncombe and Movement for Learning Program Leader Pat Preedy have joined to develop a program that would remedy students' physical development decline. Movement for Learning is a daily class that allows youngsters to move, hone their fine and gross motor skills, and repress primitive reflexes. This goal is reached through catching, articulating sounds, throwing, skipping, and balancing.

Two classes have followed the routine for one school year, and teachers say the early results are impressive. Preedy explained:

"Children today are moving less, they're developing less well, and they're learning less; we need to do something drastic to make sure children now and in the future get the movement they need to develop properly physically, intellectually and emotionally."

"Research shows there is a link between early movement and children's development and learning.

Scientists are taking the pilot program to 30 additional schools and are currently recruiting first-year classes for the upcoming academic year.

Rachael Pells, writing for the Independent, says Duncombe pointed out that physical development is already a part of the Early Years curriculum. But many educators are not aware of the activities that should be incorporated.

Globally, the age at which children begin school varies. For example, Swedish, Danish, and Finnish children start school at the age of seven, while some UK pupils start school as young as age four.

Many kids have nursery education before starting regular school in the UK, and especially now that free nursery for three-year-olds, along with two-year-olds who have disadvantaged backgrounds, have been enacted.

But the increase of inactive and sedentary lifestyles in early childhood may be impacting the readiness for school of young people. And instead of spending time outdoors, playing, rolling, and climbing, studies have proven that kids between the years of five and 16 have doubled the amount of time they spend in front of a screen in the last 20 years, reports The Conversation.

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