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Parents are fitter than kids according to survey

79 per cent of parents say that their family makes no effort to exercise

Research carried out by Decathlon has found that children tend to be the least active family members. 77 per cent of 7,600 parents questioned said that they exercised more frequently than their children, even when PE lessons were taken into account.

In 2017, Cycling UK said that getting more children cycling to school should be a public health priority after the Millennium Cohort Study highlighted a ‘stark’ increase in the proportion of children who are overweight or obese between the ages of seven and 11.

The study of nearly 12,000 children found that 25 per cent were overweight or obese at age seven, rising to 35 per cent at 11.

Safe routes to school key in tackling childhood inactivity

The NHS advises that parents should set a positive example to kids when it comes to exercise.

Almost two thirds (64 per cent) of parents who responded to the Decathlon survey said they believed they were fitter than their kids. It’s unclear just what this is worth however when you consider that 79 per cent said that their family makes no effort to exercise.

Chris Allen, market manager at Decathlon commented: “It’s really concerning to see how unfit kids are and just how few families are exercising together. The research also looks into the activity levels of adult children, revealing how they too are less active than their parents – suggesting that learned habits from childhood are affecting activity levels in their adult lives.

“Children today are pursuing less active and exercise-based past-times; the key is to make it fun for them by finding a sport or form of exercise they genuinely enjoy. Making exercise a more social occasion, by getting friends or the whole family involved is a great way to introduce an active lifestyle to kids.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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MattieKempy | 4 years ago

All these comments ring true (except the one about the validity of the survey, though I accept it was almost certainly commercially-motivated) and bear out my experience of kids' activity levels. I'm a PE teacher and coach of several sports, cycling included. The issues behind non-participation in physical activity are complex. Of course, non-participation can be partly explained by modern lifestyles, though you don't have to buy your kids PlayStations or whatever and you can ration their phone use. I fall down here as a parent because my kids watch too much TV, but by the same token they ride to school most days, do sports clubs after school at least three days a week and we ride as a family most weekends.

Parental attitudes to exercise are also very influential on what kids do and gender also makes a big difference. I've taught and coached kids from 5 years old right through to the big kids who play Vets rugby at 50 years old and in my experience, if their parents don't value sport or physical activity then the kids are very unlikely to do so. I've also found that if kids aren't 'turned on' to activity and sport by the time they leave Primary school they're very unlikely to take it up. Problem with that is, as brilliant as Primary schools and Primary school teachers are, PE just isn't a priority because the government can't measure it and training in PE for Primary school teachers is woefully inadequate.

I think playing sport is the best approach to keeping kids active, though this doesn't apply universally. I apologise for generalising, but I've found girls tend to like competition less than boys, preferring 'activity' over sport, whereas boys prefer competition. Both genders like sports/physical activities mainly because they equate them as time spent with their mates. It's also really problematic when parents put pressure on their kids to perform when playing sport. So many forget that it's not them that is playing but it's their child; so many forget that their child's capacity to excel at sport doesn't reflect on their parenting skills; so many forget that kids' sport is about enjoyment and developing positive habits, not about winning. Remove these pressures and sport becomes a far more positive experience for everyone, especially for the kids participating.

It doesn't surprise me that adults are more active than children because they're more likely to organise activity into their schedules than they are to fit it into their children's lives. These days, we're time-poor but choice-rich. It's also true to say that as kids of the 70s and 80s our physical activity was much less organised and far more spontaneous than anything that kids do today. Whichever way you look at it and whatever the reasons, whether you agree with my essay (sorry) or not, it's a crying shame that kids aren't more active.

Pyro Tim | 4 years ago

My boy is 5. He races BMX, so we spend a couple of hours a week at the track at least. He rides his mtb most days, often over 5 mile rides. He swims once a week. He has cricket coaching once a week. He does tap lessons once a week. He runs everywhere. During term time he does pe lessons too. The longest he's ever sat still is about 20 seconds. If he's standing still, he's hopping, jumping, bouncing. Same if he's sitting really. My problem is trying to slow him down so he doesn't crash and become an irritating argumentative so and so an hour or so before bedtime. Is he fitter than me? Probably not, but then I'm probably not as fit as him either. I'm bike fit, and can go long and hard. He's alround fit.

It's bulls**t to say that kids don't do excercise because parents are scared. Unless there is a genuine medical reason, it's because parents are lazy. Maybe we were left to our own devises, and now we need to accompany them. Kids are not inherintly lazy, but there are kids in his class that are lazy. One lad's parents asked me to teach their son to ride. On our first time out it was obvious he could do it, but couldn't be bothered. I got him riding without assistance for a total of 2 pedal revolutions. That was enough for him. He gave up. I nearly blew a gasket, and my boy was just riding in circles jaw agape. 

My take on it is, if, when they are babies you sit them in front of the tv / tablet etc, you are teaching them to be lazy. 

My boy doesn't play any computer games, but then I don't either. He watches no more than an hour a day of tv. He reads every day. Writes most days.

I'm far from the perfect parent, maybe my wife is much closer to that. I'm not saying that anyone specifically is a bad parent, I don't know any of you, or what you do with your kids. This is not an attack on you. It's more a slamming indictment of our society which is dominated by screens, big and small. I waste too much time on those screens too. I try to counter it by riding my bike. 


I do think the biggest thing holding kids back from loving cycling is the shite heavy bicycle shaped objects. Some are more than half the kids weight. Would you ride a 35-40kg bike?

srchar | 4 years ago

Kids don't go out, because parents are scared of what might happen to them. Kidnapped, radicalised, mugged, stabbed, knocked off their bike by an inattentive driver... plenty of families don't even have gardens these days, certainly not here in London, where kids are lucky to have their own bedroom.

Talking of sedentary kids, they can't even be arsed to play their own computer games. My kids aren't old enough for them yet, but nephews are happier watching someone play a game on YouTube than playing it themselves. I just have to accept that I don't get it.


handlebarcam | 4 years ago

Older-generation-thinks-younger-generation-are-slackers shocker.

Surveys of opinion like this are worthless. And often, as in this case, conducted by corporations for purely marketing purposes. But they're acceptable tabloid-fodder when the questions are about age groups. Ask the same sort of questions about one region or socio-econonic group's opinions of another, and it'd be treated like a hate crime.

alchemilla | 4 years ago

The wild places we used to play as kids don't exist now, they're new housing estates.  Always thought my kids missed out on that, where we used to be out all day.  Feel sorry that they're missing out.

hawkinspeter | 4 years ago

Not a parent myself, but I've certainly noticed that kids these days are rubbish at fighting. I've yet to find a 6-year old that can match me.

Rick_Rude | 4 years ago

Keep trying to disguise exercise as something else but kids just aren't as active now. I spent my youth in a small village, out and about until ' teatime' on bmxs or messing about in the river or whatever.

They don't even to play physically together since the advent of online gaming.

vonhelmet | 4 years ago
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My two have just finished swimming lessons and we're trying to keep them active. Younger one wants to run, which is fine. Elder can be persuaded to cycle, but isn't as keen. I'm picking up a second hand bike (shaped object) for her tomorrow and I'm hoping it'll see some decent use.

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