Study Finds Physical Activity Outside of School is Vital for Child Health

Highlighting the importance of physical activity outside of school hours.

Study Finds Physical Activity Outside of School is Vital for Child Health
Image: University of Bristol

It’s been said that playing outdoors promotes well-being and physical development. In case of kids, there is no doubt. Children are normally attracted to playing outside. Although, there are many benefits too.

Kids also need physical exercise to keep up their health. Through such activities they allow themselves to use their muscles to run, swing, jump, skate and ride a bike, and to be out in the fresh air and sunshine. Such kids who do an activity outside of school meets the Government’s physical activity guidelines.

The recent study by the University of Bristol suggests that increased exercise during school days won’t be enough for children to meet the recommended one hours of physical activity a day, set by the Chief Medical Officer.

Scientists involved 1,223 pupils from 47 state-funded primary schools children, aged eight to nine. All the pupils have:

  • Attended sport/exercise clubs five days per week. They were 67% more likely to meet the Chief Medical Officers recommendation of an hour of physical activity per day than those who never attend.
  • Regularly attended activity outside of school. They also got additional 7.5 minutes of physical activity per day than children who do not attend.
  • Played in the neighborhood or garden. They were associated with comparable increases in physical activity as attending after-school clubs.
  • The more types of activity at school, outside of school and in the neighborhood in which children engage the more active likely they are to meet public health guidance.

Scientists utilized an accelerometer to keep track on each student’s activity. They then calculated mean minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and sedentary time every day for a week.

Children then completed a questionnaire, where they answered about their attendance at organized physical activity in the school or community outside school hours, and neighborhood play.

Professor Russ Jago said, “This research highlights the importance of physical activity outside of school hours. It is already clear that reaching the recommended physical activity levels solely during school hours is a near-impossible goal.”

“Parents should encourage their children to attend after-school clubs, attend community groups and play in their neighborhood. All four types of activity contribute equally so parents should find the best balance for their children.”

In other words, the findings recommend parents and teachers to give children opportunities to be physically active throughout the day. Being physically active allows children to be flexible and also develop social skills. It also encourages them to attend an after-school club or replacing screen time with a run around in the park.