Despite doing sports, children suffer from lack of movement, says international study

The national report for the Active Healthy Kids project was presented with the Czech Minister of Health, Adam Vojtěch (blue helmet, in the left) and his deputy Alena Šteflová in attendance. The presentation also included an excursion from the Faculty of Physical Education campus to the Faculty Elementary School at Tererovo Square, where they saw a publicly accessible playground.
Photo gallery:: Martin Višňa
Friday 24 May 2019, 14:18 – Text: (eds)

Czech children suffer from the lack of natural movement, they do not play outside, they make overuse of the “parent taxi”, and spend most of their free time sitting. This is despite the fact that 62 per cent of adolescents are engaged in organised sports. These are the conclusions of the international research project Global Matrix on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, on which experts from the Faculty of Physical Culture also participated.

So far, this has been the largest and most comprehensive research and international comparison of physical activity in children and youth, involving over five hundred experts from 49. In the Czech Republic the research has been organized by the Faculty of Physical Culture, Palacký University Olomouc. The main conclusions are presented in the Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth, available for download at the project website.

The published study is unique, due to the number of countries as well as the complexity of assessment of children’s physical activity. “The indicators involved in the comparison were overall physical activity, organised physical activity and sport, active play, active transport, sedentary behaviour, physical fitness, family and peers, school, community and environment, and public policy. In the overall assessment, the Czech Republic ended up in the second ten, just like Germany and Great Britain; the best scores were achieved by Slovenia, Denmark, and Finland,” said Aleš Gába.


Losing natural movement

Due to the comprehensive nature of the research, the results are of interest to the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic. “The key piece of information is that Czech children suffer from a lack of movement even though they are engaged in sports on a regular basis. The modern lifestyle is decreasing natural movement, such as walking or active outdoor play. Children are driven to schools or clubs and spend their free time with mobile phones, tablets, and computers. Many towns and cities do not have adequate places for physical activity such as sports grounds or parks,” says Adam Vojtěch, Czech Minister of Health.

His deputy Alena Šteflová adds that the Ministry of Health is trying to change the situation. Already in August 2015, the Government approved the Health 2020 Action Plans, which contain a series of measures aimed at promoting the health of the young generation and adults. Alena Šteflová believes in the success of the Health 2020 strategy and its Action plan to promote physical activity: “The Action plan focuses on promoting natural movement in the context of the family, school and transport, and is to a large extent interdisciplinary, which is desirable in this case.” At the same time, she emphasised the role of towns and municipalities in providing suitable conditions for physical activity.


Start in schools

This opinion is shared by the professionals from the UP Faculty of Physical Culture, who substantially participated in the drafting of the Action Plan. The coordinator of the Action Plan, Zdeněk Hamřík, believes it is vital to start in schools. “For example, by adding an extra PE class, global introduction of active recess, inclusion of physical activity in classes other than PE, or through supporting active transportation of children to school. Physical activity promotion is important already in the preschool age, both in the family and kindergarten. A key aspect is spontaneous outdoor play, which is a precondition for the development of healthy physical habits. However, the problem is complex in nature and requires investment in suitable infrastructure such as bike paths, public sports grounds and parks, and increased public awareness about the importance of an active lifestyle,” added Zdeněk Hamřík.

In order to increase health literacy among the population, the Czech Ministry of Health is going to promote public awareness by means of a new National Health Information Portal (NZIP). The portal will provide verified information about all aspects of human health, including a healthy diet and physical activity.

There are examples of good practice. One of them is, for instance, the Faculty Elementary School on Tererovo Square in Olomouc, where an open playground project has been operating for a long time. “For about fifteen years, we have had an open playground at our premises, accessible to all age groups after school. There is also an equipment rental and a caretaker, which is a local active pensioner, at the playground,” said Jaroslav Hála, headmaster.


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