As our children return to school and we approach the anniversary of the first lockdown, we continue our blog series looking at the developmental changes our children have experienced during this extended time at home and the importance to keep active for their emotional and physical development. Here we focus on children in Key Stage 2, aged eight to 11 years.
Bone growth and integrity are determined during growth and maturation in this ‘prepubertal’ and early adolescent stage. Bones don’t actually form until a child is about 10 years old – and they don’t stop growing until between 16 and 21 years old – so these early adolescent years are critical for developing healthy bone mass.
Failure to achieve sufficiently high bone mass during this period of development leads to increased risk of fragile bones and in turn a higher risk of fractures in older age due to age related bone demineralisation. A significant effect on bone mineral density, which is important for healthy aging, is physical activity.
Last year we undertook research with the Cambridge Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences to better understand the impact of movement and physical activity on a child’s developing body. The research reported that not only will physically active children have an increased proficiency in gross motor competence, such as a fundamental movement skills (throwing, catching, running) stability skills (balancing) and object control (manipulative skills e.g. throwing) but they will also have greater bone mineral density.
The study refuted the common misconception that participation in extensive high intensity sport at this age alters growth rates. It found children (boys and girls) aged 9-10 who cycled to school (a journey of 15min or less) were shown to be significantly fitter than those who took passive transport (car or bus) or walked. Interestingly it also found that organised sport such as football only meets a portion of the recommended physical activity that a child of this age needs. One study of 9 year olds playing 50 minutes of football showed that only 25% of the time was spent at the required moderate to vigorous activity intensity.
Research advised that children of this age engage in at least 15 to 20 minutes of vigorous activity on a minimum of three days per week, but ideally 5 days per week, especially during the school holidays or extended time at home.
Last year we partnered with The Daily Mile to help families keep fit at home together. Click HERE to read more about our partnership, the fantastic work of The Daily Mile in schools around the world and pick up ideas to inspire your family to be more physically active together.