Research: Most Countries Get a 'C' Grade When it Comes to Physical Activity in Children

May 21, 2014 - GamePolitics Staff

Out of 15 countries assessed in a new study, children in Scotland were at the bottom of the rankings when it came to physical activity and at the top of rankings for spending too much time on screen-based leisure activities including watching TV and gaming.

The findings were unveiled in Toronto, Canada in the first "Global Matrix" of children's physical activity, with Scotland's data provided by a Strathclyde-led expert group. The report, "Physical Activity of Children: A Global Matrix of Grades Comparing 15 Countries", will be published in the "Journal of Physical Activity and Health."

On the plus side the report does rate Scotland highly in two other league tables; one for "national policies, strategies, and investments in relation to child and adolescent physical activity," and "having a supportive community/built environment for child and adolescent physical activity."

The Global Matrix assessed nine indicators: overall physical activity; organized sport participation; active play; active transportation; sedentary behaviors; family and peers; school; community and built environment; and government strategies and investments. Each of these indicators is assigned a grade in the Global Matrix - from the top "A" mark, down to "F".

Scotland scored an "F" in two categories - overall physical activity, and sedentary behavior - or screen-based leisure time. Its best ratings - of "B" - came in the categories of "community and built environment" - which includes the availability of parks and playgrounds - as well as "government strategies and investments."

Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health Science, John Reilly, of Strathclyde's School of Psychological Sciences and Health, said:

"The Global Matrix reveals an interesting relationship between lower physical activity and higher sedentary behavior in countries with better infrastructure, and indeed we found this to be the case in Scotland. What comes out very strongly is there is great variation around the globe and no single country has found a magic formula to improve children's health. Countries tend to score well in some categories - such as in the community and built environment - but badly in other areas, such as overall physical activity, and this suggests there is great untapped potential for nations to learn from each other, in order to improve the health of children around the world."

"We hope that the publication of this first Global Matrix will encourage other nations, which aren't represented, to develop their own Active Healthy Kids Report Cards, to further our international understanding of global variations in the physical activity of children." Fifteen countries submitted data to the Global Matrix, including Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Finland, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, Scotland, South Africa, and the United States.

New Zealand and Mozambique reported the highest grades ("B") for "overall physical activity" while 10 countries reported low or failing grades ("D" or "F"), indicating that there is "widespread evidence of a childhood inactivity crisis." New Zealand and Australia reported the highest grades ("B" and "B-minus" respectively) for "organized sport participation" while most other countries had a "C" grade average, indicating that about half of children participated in sports.

Grades for "active transportation," such as walking or biking, ranged from "B" in Finland, Nigeria and Mozambique, to "F" in the United States. Ghana and Kenya reported the best grades ("B") for "sedentary behavior" but the majority of countries had very poor or failing marks in this category.

When it came to schools' policies for physical education, scores ranged from "A-minus" in England to "D" in South Africa. While the grades were generally high for "community and the built environment," they still ranged from "A-minus" in Australia to "F" in Mexico and Mozambique.

Source: University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland)

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