Getting kids off the couch

The influence of families and friends on change in physical activity, sedentary behaviour and screen-viewing from Years 1 to 6 in the B-PROACT1V cohort: Finding new ways to change behaviour  

Russell Jago (lead researcher)

Bristol, University of

Start date: 01 March 2015 (Duration 4 years, 6 months)

We know that keeping active and doing exercise helps to keep our hearts healthy, whilst sitting for long periods of time, whether watching TV, playing computer games or surfing the internet, can lead to high blood pressure and a higher risk of heart disease. These behaviours start in childhood – many children are not active enough and spend too much time sitting in front of a screen. We need to understand how children’s habits develop at primary school, so we can think of new ways to get them moving and keep them active into adulthood.

Professor Russell Jago and his team at the University of Bristol have been studying 1,456 five to six year old children and their parents, to find out how much physical activity and screen-viewing they do. They found that many of these children spend too much time sitting down and do not do enough physical activity – but surprisingly, that their parents do not recognise this is a problem. A recent study showed that only half of children aged seven to eight do the recommended one hour of moderate to vigorous exercise per day.

The BHF have now awarded the Bristol team a grant to collect more data from the same children as they get older, as they reach year four (when they are eight to nine) and year six (when they are ten to eleven). As well as physical activity and screen viewing, they will also record their blood pressure. Because parents have an important influence on childhood behaviours, they will also find out how active their parents are, and explore their approach to parenting and home life.

The Bristol team hope their research will reveal how physical activity, sedentary time and screen viewing habits change at primary school, and if there are common factors which determine them, such as parents and friendship groups. With teachers and health professionals, they will design new interventions to change these habits and challenge parents’ view of what levels of physical activity is acceptable. This research could reveal new ways to get kids more active, helping to prevent high blood pressure and heart disease in later life.

Project details

Grant amount £538,547
Grant type Special Project
Start Date 01 March 2015
Duration 4 years, 6 months
Reference SP/14/4/31123
Status In progress

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