Summer holidays - bad for your children's health?

Action for Children calls for a greater focus on active kids this summer

With the long six week summer holidays now in full swing, Action for Children is highlighting the damaging effects that this extended annual break can have on children’s long-term physical and mental health if they don’t find ways to keep active.

The government currently recommends that children get 60 minutes of physical activity every day – that’s exercise that will get you out of breath, not just a gentle stroll – but only around 1 in 5 children meet this target. Even this level of activity can decline when children are out of school, because they miss out on the structured physical activity that schools provide and spend an increased amount of time indoors and on technology.

Carol Iddon, Managing Director of Children’s Services at Action for Children comments: ‘Technology can be an amazing tool but it’s important for families to maintain a balance and include other activities – particularly if those activities also encourage quality family time. The positive physical and mental benefits that this can have on a child are huge - from helping to combat weight issues to building relationships where children can communicate more freely with their parents making them less susceptible to bullying or abuse outside the home.’

Researchers from the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR) at the University of Cambridge, have studied how the amount of physical activity that children achieve in and out of school changes over time, and have shown how the structure of the school day can support physical activity in a way that is more difficult to achieve out of school.

The impact of a lack of activity has far-reaching consequences beyond the obvious physical ones. Dr Esther van Sluijs, Group Leader at CEDAR comments: ‘It’s very important that children regularly put down their screens and go out and do something physical. Physical activity during childhood is associated with better mental health, wellbeing and social skills as well as better academic performance.’

With nearly a quarter of parents admitting that they struggle to limit their children’s screen time, what can be done to encourage children to drop their technology and join in with some family fun? Action for Children has compiled a guide to six fun activities that you can do as a family. Try a family sports day or dance off. Or maybe organise your own nature treasure hunt. Why don’t you try to complete one every week of the summer holidays?

Visit the website –– to download your copy.

#health #summerholidays