More than half (61%) of British teenagers think they don't spend enough time being active with their family according to a new survey published today. Most young people blame their parents for their family's inactivity with a third of them citing their parents' lack of time as the reason.
British families are increasingly living a couch potato lifestyle. It's no wonder that UK kids are getting fatter, with a million under 16 year-olds now classed as obese. Over half (51%) of British parents surveyed admitted to spending most of their family leisure time watching TV. Even more worrying, over a third of Britain's mums and dads were unaware of the recommended activity levels for children: according to health experts, kids should do at least half an hour of physical activity a day.
The MORI survey, commissioned by health and care company BUPA, asked British teenagers and parents how they spend their leisure time. The results reveal that most kids spend the majority of their free time watching TV (68%) and playing computer games (53%). BUPA recently launched getoffthecouch.co.uk, a teenage health and fitness website set up to inspire inactive teenagers and their families to get moving. It is supported by boy band Blue, Trevor Nelson and Mel B.
Dr Paula Franklin, assistant medical director at BUPA, says:
"Contrary to popular belief Britain's teenagers don't necessarily want to spend their time slobbing on the sofa - they'd like to be more active and, even more surprisingly, want to do so with their parents who they blame for their couch potato lifestyles."
"Today's couch potatoes are likely to be tomorrow's sick adults. In many families, both parents work giving them less free time to spend with their children than in the past," says Dr Franklin. "Unfortunately, most bad habits are formed in childhood and are hard to break. To get kids off the couch and into physical activity, they need inspiration from their parents who should help their kids take part in activities that they enjoy - see as 'cool'."
"There is evidence which shows that children closely follow the example of their parents. Being active as a family will have a greater impact than just telling kids to go out and do something. Active families won't only benefit from being healthier, their relationship as a family could also improve," she said.
It's not just parents who have an impact on kids and couch potato lifestyles. Over half (53%) of teenagers surveyed said better sporting facilities in their local area would encourage them to be more active and nearly a third (31%) agreed that more PE at school would have a positive impact on their activity levels.
Young couch potatoes are 30 per cent more at risk of serious, and often fatal, illnesses like heart disease and diabetes in later life than their active counterparts. Inactivity can also have a negative impact on school performance resulting in lower grades.
- Physical inactivity can lead to at least 35 chronic diseases and conditions, including: asthma, arthritis pain, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias), breast cancer, colon cancer, heart failure, depression, gallstone disease, heart attack, hypertension, obesity, osteoporosis, blood disease, respiratory problems, diabetes, sleep problems and stroke.
- A major factor of inactivity is, of course, obesity. Sadly, this condition is on the increase with over twice as many kids suffering from it now as 20 years ago. A million children under the age of 16 in the UK are classed as obese. Obesity is the UK's biggest cause of ill health and visits to the doctor: it causes 30,000 premature deaths and costs the economy over £2billion a year.
- The knock-on effects of obesity can be devastating. As well as physical problems, it can cause depression, low self-esteem and even behavioural problems, because of teasing from other children. Research shows that obesity is a major cause of bullying.
- Some of the physical problems associated with being severely overweight include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease in adulthood (the onset of which can begin as early as aged nine), diabetes, an increased risk of some cancers in later life, osteoporosis in later life.
A nationally representative sample of 631 British parents of children aged 0 -17 were interviewed throughout Great Britain on the MORI Omnibus across 194 constituency based sampling points. Their children aged 11 to 17 were also interviewed where permission was given. Interviews were carried out using CAPI (Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing), face-to-face in respondents homes between 9th and 14th August 2001. Data have been weighted to reflect the known national population profile.