A rapidly developing evidence base demonstrates a link between academic performance and physical fitness (closely linked to physical activity) for children of all ages and socioeconomic groups. There is also an inverse association between physical fitness and reported violent and antisocial incidents in school. Physical education, games and sport for children have demonstrated positive impact on physical health, and affective, social and cognitive function. Furthermore, physical activity habits in childhood seem to determine, in part, adult physical activity behavior which is a key determinant of adult health. Yet school children spend an average of 7–8 h a day being sedentary (ie, sitting). Much of this waking time is spent sitting at school.
A recent editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine emphasizes the need for the promotion of physical activity for expectant mothers and young children, a message frequently forgotten by the public, doctors and obstetricians. Physical activity should be encouraged from birth. All children and young people should minimize the amount of time spent being sedentary.
How much physical activity should children get? Children of preschool age who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active daily for at least 180 min (3 h), spread across the day. Children and young people (aged 5–18 years) should engage in moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 min and up to several hours every day, with vigorous intensity weight-bearing activities that strengthen muscle and bone being incorporated at least 3 days a week.