Don’t tell children to ‘sit still’ – they will end up as fat couch potatoes –

Telling children to “sit still” sets them up for a lifetime of obesity, a report by MPs and peers has warned.

Parents and teachers should “treasure the young child’s natural inclination to be physically active” instead of telling them to stop fidgeting or to be seated for long periods, the parliamentary group said.

Fitness experts said today’s children were being fed a diet of “sofa and screen time” while being starved of outdoor activities.

The report by the all-party parliamentary group on a fit and healthy childhood said most children today spend less time playing outdoors than prisoners are required to have outside by law.

The group called on the Government to rewrite the childhood obesity strategy, to make promotion of exercise a more substantial part of it.

And it called for “traffic light” food labelling to be replaced with “activity equivalent” calorie labels – showing how much walking it would take to burn off the calories.

Baroness Floella Benjamin, co-chair of the group, said:  “The UK is in the throes of an obesity epidemic – but at the moment, our Government is not rising to the occasion with all the weapons at its disposal.”

The report highlights research which found three quarters of British parents said their children spend an hour or less playing outside each day – the minimum amount of outdoor time given to prison inmates.

“Young children’s physical activity should be seen as the norm; something to be positively encouraged every day.

“Linked to this, identification of a ‘good’ child as one who sits still –  as opposed to a happily mobile child, need to be resisted and challenged,” the report states, calling for a “significant shift” in attitudes towards young children.

The report says young children should be given exercise breaks, during school days, and during classes, and endorses the “Daily Mile” programme introduced in Scotland.


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