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  • 12 October 2016 12:36
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My child won't play outside because it's too cold!

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The Centre for Diet and Activity Research has produced an evidence briefing to understand how children’s physical activity levels vary throughout the year.

Key points 
Activity levels are lower in autumn and winter, with more pronounced variation at the weekend.
Day length and weather conditions are likely the drivers of these patterns, but the effects vary by age.
Although we cannot change the weather or hours of light, interventions may be possible – for instance support at school for physical activity in wet weather. More radical approaches to daylight savings may support activity.

Physical activity across the seasons

An analysis from the Age 7 survey of the UK Millennium Cohort Study used data collected by accelerometer on up to five occasions within a single calendar year. It showed:
Consistent with previous research, children were more active in spring and summer than autumn and winter. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA – i.e. that which requires a substantial amount of effort and noticeably increases the heart rate) was lower in both autumn and winter when compared to spring.

Average activity levels across the group peaked in April at 65.3 min/day and dropped to their lowest levels in February at 47.8 min/day.

The weekend effect:
children’s weekend activity was more susceptible to seasonal influence than weekday activity. Physical activity was at its lowest at weekends during winter, and highest during weekends in early summer.

Gender differences: whilst boys were more active than girls throughout the year, boys’ activity varied more with the seasons than girls’ activity.
This evidence briefing helps identify periods when children might require additional support to be active.

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