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Test primary pupils’ fitness to avert NHS ‘time bomb’ says ukactive

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Leading not-for-profit health body calls for routine testing of children’s fitness, as report reveals less than half of primary schools are recording time spent being physically active.

Primary schools should test pupils’ fitness in the same way as subjects like Maths and English to stem the tide of physical inactivity threatening to overwhelm the NHS, a new report from ukactive has concluded.

Launching its ‘Generation Inactive’ report highlighting findings from a series of Freedom of Information (FOI) requests, the leading not-for-profit organisation for the health and activity sector found that less than half of schools surveyed (43 per cent) recorded the length of time children actually spend being physically active in PE lessons.

The report, which has received backing from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, highlights how ever-rising rates of physical inactivity in children could lead to ‘generation inactive’ becoming a huge drain on the NHS in years to come as they develop chronic conditions associated with inactivity ranging from diabetes to cancers.

A series of worrying statistics set out in the report highlight the scale of the problem and the impact it is already having:

  • Only half of seven year olds are meeting the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes per day.
  • Inactivity directly and indirectly costs the UK economy£20 bn a year.NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens has stated that an extra £8billion a year is required by 2020 to maintain health services – on top of £22bn of efficiency savings.
  • An inactive person spends 37 per cent more days in hospital and visits the doctor 5.5 per cent more often than an active individual.
  • Inactive people are also significantly more likely to suffer from depression, and dementia than physically active adults.
  • The report describes the physical inactivity pandemic as“aticking time bomb under the shared pledges of all political parties to maintain a NHS free at the point of need”.

ukactive outlines a series of recommendations it says provide a pathway towards solving the physical inactivity pandemic in schools – where good and bad exercise habits learned at a young age can carry on into later life.

They include integrating physical activity throughout the school day to ensure children achieve the 60 minutes of daily exercise recommended by CMOs.

To read the full news item visit the ukactive webpage here