Memorandum submitted by Professor Roger
Mackett, Centre for Transport Studies, University College London
MAKING CHILDREN'S LIVES MORE ACTIVE
Children are becoming fatter which has serious
implications for their health. One reason is their decreasing
levels of physical activity. This is related to their lifestyles
and reductions in the amount of walking. This note illustrates
these effects and draws conclusions about children's physical
activity and car use.
The findings discussed here come from a research
project entitled "Reducing children's car use: the health
and potential car dependency impacts" that has been carried
out in the Centre for Transport Studies at University College
London under the direction of Professor Roger Mackett, with funding
from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).
The work has been carried out in collaboration with others including
Hertfordshire County Council, with fieldwork being carried out
through schools in Hertfordshire.
The approach has involved collecting data from
195 children in Years 6 and 8. The children were fitted with portable
motion sensors and kept activity and travel diaries for four days:
two weekdays plus the weekend. The results have been scaled up
to one week. The sensors produce results in terms of activity
calories which are the calories consumed in carrying out activities
as opposed to the calories consumed all the time maintaining bodily
functions. From these results conclusions have been drawn about
the impact of children's activity patterns and travel on the quantities
of physical activity.
Table 1 shows the number of activity calories
consumed per minute in various activities. It can be seen that
PE and games lessons are most intensive activities with an intensity
of 3.1, but not very far behind this come unstructured ball games
and walking at 2.5, followed by structured sport at 2.2 and cycling
and school break time at 1.9. At the bottom of the list come being
at home at 0.5 and sitting in lessons at school at 0.6.
Whilst PE and games lessons are obviously good
for children, the children in the sample only spent the equivalent
of 70 minutes a week doing them. They spent much more time playing
and in structured sport and school breaks so these contribute
more to the children's total physical activity. 60% of the children
played outside, while fewer than 50% took part in organised sport.
The one thing that children should not be doing is sitting at
homethey should be out, running around. Also, this suggests
that reducing the length of school breaks will have a negative
effect on their health, which should be balanced against the educational
INTENSITY OF VARIOUS ACTIVITIES UNDERTAKEN
BY CHILDREN (ACTIVITY CALORIES PER MINUTE)
|School||PE or games lesson
|Clubs and tuition||Structured ball games|
Other structured sport
|Playing||Unstructured ball games|
Other unstructured activities
Other outdoor play
|Out on trips||
The benefits of walking relative to PE and games lessons
are shown in Table 2. This shows that walking to and from school
every day for a week uses more activity calories than two hours
of PE and games lessons, the recommended standard. This also provides
good evidence why travelling to and from school by car is bad
for children in terms of physical activity.
CONSUMPTION OF ACTIVITY CALORIES USED IN A WEEK TRAVELLING
TO AND FROM SCHOOL AND TWO HOURS OF PE OR GAMES LESSONS
|Walk to and from school||388
|Car to and from school||164
|Two hours of PE or games||376
Not only does travelling to an activity by car use fewer
calories than walking, as Table 3 shows, the children who walk
use more calories when they arrive. This suggests that there may
be a cohort of children who are relatively inactive when undertaking
activities and whose parent are willing to take them by car, possibly
reflecting their own lifestyles.
INTENSITY OF VARIOUS ACTIVITIES, CLASSIFIED BY THE METHOD
OF TRAVEL USED TO ARRIVE
|PE or games lesson||3.5
|Other school lesson||0.6
|Clubs and tuition||1.9
|Out on trips||1.3
The car plays a big part in children's lives, as Table 4
shows, with more events reached by car than walking. This shows
that the main reasons the children go by car is to go on trips
with parents, to go to other people's homes and to go to school.
The trip to school is the main reason for walking. This suggests
that trips other than walking to school need to be targeted in
order to reduce children's car use significantly. Also it can
be seen that going to clubs and tuition tends to be by car whereas
children tend to walk when they go out to play. This suggests
that the shift from unstructured to structured activities for
children is one of the causes of their decrease in walking and
that letting children go out to play is one of the best things
that parents can do for their children's health. Outdoor play
uses as many calories as organised activities and is more likely
to be associated with walking.
NUMBER OF ACTIVITIES EACH WEEK CLASSIFIED BY HOW THE CHILDREN
|Clubs and tuition||0.3
|Out on trips||0.6
Walking and playing provide children with more
physical activity than most other activities.
Encouraging children to be out of the house will
increase their physical activity.
Walking to and from school can be better for children
than two hours a week of PE and games lessons.
Reducing the length of school breaks will reduce
children's quantity of physical activity.
Children who walk to activities are more active
when they arrive than those who go by car.
The shift from unstructured to structured out-of-school
activities encourages car use.
The main reason children travel by car is to accompany
their parents on trips.