Physical activity helps children to deal with life’s challenges

Public Health England, Disney UK and Sport England launch new Change4Life campaign to inspire children to get more active | via Public Health England


Evidence shows that children and young people who are more active have more confidence, higher self-esteem, less anxiety and stress and better social skills – attributes that can help them deal with the challenges they face in daily life. Positive attitudes towards physical activity have also been associated with children being happier.

The UK Chief Medical Officers recommend that children do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, yet just 20% of boys and even fewer girls (14%), are meeting this target, despite 95% of children saying that they enjoy being active.

A new campaign is encouraging children to play 10 Minute Shake Up games inspired by favourite characters.  The campaign has also launched a new online quiz to help children, with their parents, find activities and sports to try.

For more information, see 10 Minute Shake Up games

Interventions to increase physical activity

This report brings together recent evidence on ways to influence physical activity behaviours in individuals and populations | National Institute for Health Research

Being active matters because it is an important way of staying healthy. We know that people can reduce their risk of many serious diseases by staying physically active. Activity is also important for mental well-being and keeping socially connected. Finding enjoyable ways to be active can benefit people in so many ways. But it is often hard for people to start and keep the habit of regular activity. Around a quarter of people are inactive and less than two thirds meet recommended activity levels. We need to know more about what works in getting people active and sustaining this, particularly for those who are least active now.

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This review focuses on National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)-funded research evaluating interventions to increase physical activity for individuals and populations. This features over 50 published and ongoing studies. Evaluations range from programmes in schools and communities to changes in transport and the environment, which are designed to promote greater activity.

Full document: Moving Matters: Interventions to increase physical activity

Yoga improves health in later life, reports systematic review

University of Edinburgh | June 2019 | Yoga improves health in later life, study says

Edinburgh researchers synthesised existing evidence on the effects of yoga on physical function and health related quality of life (HRQoL) in older adults not characterised by any specific clinical condition. 

The team of researchers have reviewed 22 randomised controlled trials that had investigated the effects of yoga on physical and mental wellbeing in older adults (those aged over 60). The yoga programmes in the studies varied in length  and duration of sessions ranged from 30 to 90 minutes.


This review is the first to compare the impact of yoga with active and inactive controls in older adults not characterised by a specific clinical condition. The group that practised yoga were found to have improved balance, flexibility, leg strength, depression, sleep quality, vitality and perceived mental and physical health – than the controls.

The study’s findings provide robust evidence for promoting yoga in physical activity guidelines for older adults as a multimodal activity that improves aspects of fitness like strength, balance and flexibility, as well as mental wellbeing (Source: University of Edinburgh).

Read the Edinburgh news release in full here 



Yoga has been recommended as a muscle strengthening and balance activity in national and global physical activity guidelines. However, the evidence base establishing the effectiveness of yoga in improving physical function and health related quality of life (HRQoL) in an older adult population not recruited on the basis of any specific disease or condition, has not been systematically reviewed. The objective of this study was to synthesise existing evidence on the effects of yoga on physical function and HRQoL in older adults not characterised by any specific clinical condition.


The following databases were systematically searched in September 2017: MEDLINE, PsycInfo, CINAHL Plus, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, SPORTDiscus, AMED and ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global. Study inclusion criteria: Older adult participants with mean age of 60 years and above, not recruited on the basis of any specific disease or condition; yoga intervention compared with inactive controls (example: wait-list control, education booklets) or active controls (example: walking, chair aerobics); physical function and HRQoL outcomes; and randomised/cluster randomised controlled trials published in English. A vote counting analysis and meta-analysis with standardised effect sizes (Hedges’ g) computed using random effects models were conducted.


A total of 27 records from 22 RCTs were included (17 RCTs assessed physical function and 20 assessed HRQoL). The meta-analysis revealed significant effects (5% level of significance) favouring the yoga group for the following physical function outcomes compared with inactive controls: balance (effect size (ES) = 0.7), lower body flexibility (ES = 0.5), lower limb strength (ES = 0.45); compared with active controls: lower limb strength (ES = 0.49), lower body flexibility (ES = 0.28). For HRQoL, significant effects favouring yoga were found compared to inactive controls for: depression (ES = 0.64), perceived mental health (ES = 0.6), perceived physical health (ES = 0.61), sleep quality (ES = 0.65), and vitality (ES = 0.31); compared to active controls: depression (ES = 0.54).


This review is the first to compare the effects of yoga with active and inactive controls in older adults not characterised by a specific clinical condition. Results indicate that yoga interventions improve multiple physical function and HRQoL outcomes in this population compared to both control conditions. This study provides robust evidence for promoting yoga in physical activity guidelines for older adults as a multimodal activity that improves aspects of fitness like strength, balance and flexibility, as well as mental wellbeing.

The full article is available from the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity

Is video gaming positively associated with higher body mass?

Are children, teenagers and adults who spend a lot of time playing video games more obese? This meta-analysis study looked into this question, and found that the cliché to be true – but only for adults | Social Science & Medicine | published online 9 June 2019 | story via ScienceDaily

A new study comprising a total of 20 relevant studies with more than 38,000 participants has revealed a small correlation between video game playing and excess weight or body mass. However, the link was only established for adults but not for children and teenagers. This authors identified a significant indirect effect which shows that people who spend more time playing video games also spend less time exercising and therefore weigh more or have more body mass which helps explain this correlation.




High body mass and obesity are frequently linked to the use of sedentary media, like television (TV) or non-active video games. Empirical evidence regarding video gaming, however, has been mixed, and theoretical considerations explaining a relationship between general screen time and body mass may not generalize to non-active video gaming.


The current meta-analysis had two main goals. First, we wanted to provide an estimate of the average effect size of the relationship between sedentary video gaming and body mass. In doing so we acknowledged several context variables to gauge the stability of the average effect. Second, to provide additional evidence on processes, we tested the displacement effect of physical activity by video gaming time with the help of a meta-analytic structural equation model (MASEM).


Published and unpublished studies were identified through keyword searches in different databases and references in relevant reports were inspected for further studies. We present a random-effects, three-level meta-analysis based on 20 studies (total N = 38,097) with 32 effect sizes.


The analyses revealed a small positive relationship between non-active video game use and body mass, indicating that they shared less than 1% in variance. The studies showed significant heterogeneity,  Moderator analyses revealed that the relationship was more pronounced for adults,  as compared to adolescents, or children,  MASEM found little evidence for a displacement of physical activity through time spent on video gaming.

Caroline Marker, Timo Gnambs & Markus Appel | Exploring the myth of the chubby gamer: A meta-analysis of studies on sedentary video gaming and body mass  | Social Science & Medicine | published online 9 June 2019

See also: Do video games drive obesity? | ScienceDaily


[NICE Guideline] Physical activity: encouraging activity in the community

NICE | June 2019 | Physical activity: encouraging activity in the community Quality standard [QS183]

NICE has published a new guideline relating to physical activity, it covers how local strategy, policy and planning and improvements to the built or natural physical environment such as public open spaces, workplaces and schools can encourage and support people of all ages and all abilities to be physically active and move more. It describes high-quality care in priority areas for improvement.


See also:

NICE press release Employers encouraged to help their staff become active in fight against obesity 

NICE Physical activity: encouraging activity in the community

BMJ research: Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minorities do less vigorous physical activity

University of Cambridge | May 2019 |Children from disadvantaged backgrounds and certain ethnic minorities do less vigorous physical activity 

Researchers from the University of Cambridge are the first to investigate socio-economic and ethnicity-related differences in children’s vigorous intensity physical activity behaviour.  The team studied the health of more than 5000 children using data from the Millennium Cohort Study -a longitudinal study that followed children born between September 2000 and January 2002-child participants were given accelerometers as their levels of physical activity were monitored for three days.


One of the study’s findings is that children whose mothers are highly educated are more likely to participate in the more physical activity  her child was likely to have, equally the experts also observed that children spent more time in vigorous intensity activity incrementally with increasing household income.

Other findings suggest White British children perform on average more than three minutes more daily vigorous physical activity in comparison to children from Pakistani and Bangladeshi backgrounds. Children from ‘other ethnic groups’ also accumulated 2.2 minutes fewer daily vigorous intensity activity overall.

The researchers emphasise there could be a number of reasons that might explain the differences, including access to or the cost of participating in sports activities, and a parent working longer, inconsistent work hours within a low-income job. There may also be differences in home and family support for physical activity between ethnic groups.

“Children from different backgrounds can face a number of barriers preventing them from participating in sports or other types of vigorous physical activity,” adds Dr Jean Adams, one of the study’s authors: “We need to find more ways to provide opportunities for all children to get involved in vigorous activity.” (Source: University of Cambridge)

Full press release from the University of Cambridge


 Objective: To investigate if daily vigorous physical activity, adjusted for minutes of moderate physical activity performed, differs by socio-economic position or ethnicity in a large sample of UK children with objectively measured physical activity.

Design: Nationally representative prospective cohort study.

Setting: UK children born between 2000 and 2002.

Participants: 5172 7-8-year-old children with valid accelerometer data for more than or equal to 10 h on more than or equal to 3 days, including one weekend day.

Main outcome measures: Time spent in vigorous physical activity (VPA) (more than 3841 counts per minute).

Explanatory measures: Maternal education, annual household OECD equivalised income, ethnicity.

Results: Multivariable linear regression models fitted to explore differences in average daily minutes of VPA (adjusted for moderate physical activity (MPA), mean accelerometer wear time, season of measurement, age and sex), revealed significantly higher amounts of VPA accumulated as a child’s socioeconomic position increased. Additionally, children from certain minority ethnicities  accrued less daily VPA compared with their white British counterparts.

Conclusions: The socioeconomic and ethnic patterning of vigorous activity observed in this study mirrors parallel inequalities in rates of childhood obesity. Given the stronger association of vigorous activity (VPA) with adiposity than of moderate activity (MPA), intensity specific differences may be contributing to widening inequalities in obesity. Accordingly, these findings suggest that the current global focus on overall MVPA may mask important behavioural inequalities.

Read the full article in The BMJ 

The social impact of participation in culture and sport

Report encourages the government to recognise the ‘unique power’ of sport and culture to change lives, transform cities and break the cycle of crime | The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee 

This report finds that opportunities to reap major benefits in criminal justice, education and health are being missed by the government’s failure to recognise and harness social impact. It argues that the full health impacts of cultural programmes are far from being reached in social prescribing and recommends that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport should encourage sporting organisations to take part in social prescribing schemes, which can go beyond physical health benefits to include social impacts, such as tackling loneliness.


The Report finds evidence that:

  • Reoffending rates can be reduced through access to sport or cultural programmes
  • Involvement in the arts and sports provides a constructive influence on young people with positive role models
  • Despite a link between sporting participation and educational attainment, sport ‘dropping off’ the agenda within education
  • Arts subjects downgraded in schools

Full report: Changing Lives: the social impact of participation in culture and sport