Everyone accepts that fitness is vitally important for a child’s well-being. That is why Public Heath England recommends for all 5-15 year olds a minimum of one hour’s moderately intense physical activity every day along with three hours muscle-strengthening a week .

However, latest data suggests children are getting nowhere near this. Currently, as many as 79% of boys and 84% of girls fail to achieve even this minimal amount. Only 8% of 13-15 year old girls reach this level of activity.

The impact on short-term well-being can be seen in the unprecedented levels of childhood diabetes and obesity calculated as 1 in 10 children attending Primary school rising to 1 in 4 in Secondary education.

These activity guidelines are clearly way beyond the reach of many children, so are inevitably failing to have an effect. That is why it is time to re-think how we can motivate children to be active.

Lack of fitness is a major issue, but not the only one. In fact, activity levels in children have pretty much remained the same for the past 20 years. The new danger is our excessive and ever-increasing sedentary behaviour. We now know that sitting down causes our bodies more harm than we ever imagined.

It is unlikely to change. Our ability to invent labour-saving devices remains undaunted. Whilst in a world of screens, phones and desktop technology, we are encouraged to spend even more time immobile.

That goes for children, too. It is now estimated they spend over 6 hours a day in front of a screen and we are not talking just teenagers. A recent study showed children as young as just seven are now highly sedentary.

We are designed to be active. We evolved as endurance hunters, chasing our prey until it was exhausted before killing it. Our ability to keep running outstrips all other animals. We are genetically programmed to move and our body will fight against us if we do not.

Extended sitting therefore is bad for us. After just 20 minutes sat down

– visceral fat forms on our organs
– our heart rate begins to drop
– muscles in our lower body shut down
– our blood circulation slows
– fat-burning enzymes in our gut start to die
– our mental faculties start to wane
– fluid increases in our lower limbs

True it will be in minute amounts. However, think of someone sitting at a desk 8 hours a day, 5 days a week over a 50 week year and the effect is multiplied 6000 times!

Yet simply stand up for a minute or so every 20 minutes and the effect is negated.

We now know that standing up frequently even for a few minutes can make huge differences to our long-term well-being.

For example, in one minute, you use 0.7 calories more standing than sitting. So if you stood up for 3 hours during an 8 hour day when you would normally be sitting, you would use up around 30000 calories a year. That’s enough to run 10 marathons! Your lifespan would be increased by two years too!

There are other evidenced benefits to standing up

  • standing up uses up glucose so reducing insulin production (and the associated dangers of diabetes)
  • standing up improves mental health and reduces depression
  • standing up increases energy levels
  • standing up improves concentration and focus
  • standing up regularly reduces back pain and muscle fatigue
  • standing up reduces diabetes and cardio-va
  • standing up increases productivity
  • standing up improves teamwork
  • standing up increases creativity

Remember, too, that this not like a pill intended to combat a single ailment. Regular standing up provides ALL these benefits.

MBBS PhD FFSEM(UK)

Dr Mike Loosemore is a pioneer in promoting the power of exercise in health. As Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at University College London, he not only treats the general public but advocates exercise as both prevention and treatment of many medical conditions.

He is Lead Sport Physician at the Institute for looking after a wide range of elite athletes, with responsibility for British Boxing as well as senior medical roles at Olympic, Commonwealth, World and European Championships including the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

But is the integration of SEM plays into everyday life that is Mike’s greatest passion. Awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science for his published works and services to this field of medicine, he is leading the task force for ‘Exercise is Medicine’ in the UK of which Active Movement is part.

The programme was not only co-designed by Mike to offer bespoke and practical programmes to improve health and well-being, but clients receive his personal supervision.

Dr Loosemore was awarded the MBE for services to Sports Medicine in the 2017 Birthday Honours.

A new health risk

Lack of fitness is a major issue, but not the only one. In fact, activity levels in children have pretty much remained the same for the past 20 years. The new danger is our excessive and ever-increasing sedentary behaviour. We now know that sitting down causes our bodies more harm than we ever imagined.

It is unlikely to change. Our ability to invent labour-saving devices remains undaunted. Whilst in a world of screens, phones and desktop technology, we are encouraged to spend even more time immobile.

That goes for children, too. It is now estimated they spend over 6 hours a day in front of a screen and we are not talking just teenagers. A recent study showed children as young as just seven are now highly sedentary.

The human body

We are designed to be active. We evolved as endurance hunters, chasing our prey until it was exhausted before killing it. Our ability to keep running outstrips all other animals. We are genetically programmed to move and our body will fight against us if we do not.

Extended sitting therefore is bad for us. After just 20 minutes sat down

– visceral fat forms on our organs
– our heart rate begins to drop
– muscles in our lower body shut down
– our blood circulation slows
– fat-burning enzymes in our gut start to die
– our mental faculties start to wane
– fluid increases in our lower limbs

True it will be in minute amounts. However, think of someone sitting at a desk 8 hours a day, 5 days a week over a 50 week year and the effect is multiplied 6000 times!

Yet simply stand up for a minute or so every 20 minutes and the effect is negated.

10 benefits of sitting down less

We now know that standing up frequently even for a few minutes can make huge differences to our long-term well-being.

For example, in one minute, you use 0.7 calories more standing than sitting. So if you stood up for 3 hours during an 8 hour day when you would normally be sitting, you would use up around 30000 calories a year. That’s enough to run 10 marathons! Your lifespan would be increased by two years too!

There are other evidenced benefits to standing up

  • standing up uses up glucose so reducing insulin production (and the associated dangers of diabetes)
  • standing up improves mental health and reduces depression
  • standing up increases energy levels
  • standing up improves concentration and focus
  • standing up regularly reduces back pain and muscle fatigue
  • standing up reduces diabetes and cardio-va
  • standing up increases productivity
  • standing up improves teamwork
  • standing up increases creativity

Remember, too, that this not like a pill intended to combat a single ailment. Regular standing up provides ALL these benefits.

Dr Mike Loosemore MBE

MBBS PhD FFSEM(UK)

Dr Mike Loosemore is a pioneer in promoting the power of exercise in health. As Consultant in Sport and Exercise Medicine (SEM) at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health at University College London, he not only treats the general public but advocates exercise as both prevention and treatment of many medical conditions.

He is Lead Sport Physician at the Institute for looking after a wide range of elite athletes, with responsibility for British Boxing as well as senior medical roles at Olympic, Commonwealth, World and European Championships including the recent Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

But is the integration of SEM plays into everyday life that is Mike’s greatest passion. Awarded an Honorary Doctor of Science for his published works and services to this field of medicine, he is leading the task force for ‘Exercise is Medicine’ in the UK of which Active Movement is part.

The programme was not only co-designed by Mike to offer bespoke and practical programmes to improve health and well-being, but clients receive his personal supervision.

Dr Loosemore was awarded the MBE for services to Sports Medicine in the 2017 Birthday Honours.

  • 1 in 8 children are now entering primary school obese

  • 1 in 3 children are entering into secondary school obese

  • 40% of adults over 50 are doing less than 10 minutes brisk walking a month

  • Children are spending over 6 hours a day in front of a screen

  • Only 16% of children play organised sport outside school

  • Stand up for 3 hours during an 8 hour day normally sitting down and you will live2 years longer

  • Stand up for 3 hours during an 8 hour day normally sitting down and you will use 30000 calories

  • Stand up and take a short walk and you will become more creative

  • 79% of boys between 5-15 fail to achieve Public Health England’s minimum guidelines on activity levels

  • 84% of girls between 5-15 fail to achieve Public Health England’s minimum guidelines on activity levels

  • 92% of girls between 5-15 fail to achieve Public Health England’s minimum guidelines on activity levels

  • 40% of adults over 50 complete less than 10 minutes brisk walking a month

  • The more sedentary the child, the poorer their exam results