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Lack of exercise: the German children and adolescents are overweight!

A study by the initiative, „Fit sein macht Schule“ came to the conclusion that physical fitness in children has dramatically declined since 1995.

Even though obesity was mentioned the most obvious consequence of this lack of exercise, it is by no means the only one. Other consequences include motor deficits and lack of concentration, which in turn leads to poorer performance in school. Although according to the latest results of the long-term study in the “Motor Module” there is a slightly improved the situation thanks to a better sports programs in schools and clubs, there are still major shortcomings: In everyday life. Kids exercise too little or almost not at all. On average, the current analysis goes, children exercise again more. However, the fitness in prep schoolers has declined. "The gap between very fit children and those who did not move, opens more and more," said Alexander Woll, who works at the Institute of Technology, based in Karlsruhe at the Institute of Sports and Sports Science. That is to say: "There are more and more motor-disturbed children."

Background to the current analysis

This Motor Module is a part of the so-called KiGGS study, which examines nationwide the health of 18,000 children. The focus of the Motor Module rests on the motor performance. Between 2003 to 2006 and from 2009 until 2012 the performance of 5.000 children aged 4 – 17 was examined. They had to perform tasks such as jumping, hopping, push-ups or running backwards. In a direct comparison of the two periods, the researchers found a slight upward trend. However, this is not all that promising. 35 percent of children and young people were not able to walk only 3 steps backwards on a 3-cm wide beam.

Positive: All-day schools

“Even the negative trend is stopped, for the time being, the situation is still bad”, says Alexander Woll, who would like to continue the study until 2021. Currently, he is noticing an “exercise paradox”. Even though, never before has a society been as sporty as today, yet, at the same time, " sedentary was never such a big problem as it is today." The enormous range of organised sports, which is offered in health clubs, schools and sports clubs, basically looks positive. However, this offer would not compensate for what has been lost by the loss of the "unorganised" sports. What he means with this is, playing in the woods or kicking the footy on the street. This assessment is confirmed by Swantje Scharenberg, director of the Karlsruhe Research Center for school sport and sport for children and adolescents. She says: "Children have lost their everyday spaces of exercise."

In her opinion, it is quite positive, that the offer of physical education in many all-day-schools is extended. However, this trend has a negative side just as well: “The more organised exercise becomes, the more one-sided the movement becomes as well.” So Pia Janßen from the Sports Orthopaedics at the University Hospital in Tübingen

How can we solve the problem?

Swantje Scharenbergs states, there should be more incentives for children to exercise so that the natural urge of children to move is promoted. For example, all break times at the primary school would add up to 900 minutes per week. This time could be used for physical activity. Possible incentives could be access to balls or a slackline in the playground for them.

In Alexander Woll’s opinion, it is also important to recognise that the periods of inactivity generally increased. Indeed, “less than one-third of all children and adolescents reached the recommended exercise time of 60 minutes per day.” Instead, 60 percent of boys and 50 percent of girls are sitting three hours or more in front of a screen daily.

Throughout Europe the figures are even worse; as a study of 16,000 children in eight European countries shows: Europewide children only reach 2 % of the recommended 60-minutes exercise per day. Among other things, Wool criticised, that Germany lacks the early promotion of motor skills. “With the lack of opportunities for exercise those children are deprived of fundamental development opportunities."

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