As young people grow up, there is increasing evidence that large numbers are dropping out of regular exercise into their teens.

A survey carried out by David Lloyd Leisure found that one in five children aged 6-11 years do not receive any support from their parents when it comes to getting involved in sport outside of school, with a further 50 per cent of boys and 15 per cent of girls saying they would play more sport if their parents were prepared to drive them to sports clubs.

The poll, which surveyed more than 1,000 children aged 6-11 and 2,000 parents across the UK, found that despite these figures, a third of parents believe their children should be playing more sport.

“Parents play a vital role in determining how physically active their children are. The results reveal that while parents feel their children should be more active, behaviour is not supporting this belief,” says Sarah Hobbs, head of family at David Lloyd Leisure.

When asked specifically how parents would like to see their children spend their leisure time, playing sport came out on top with 39 per cent, followed by doing homework (16 per cent), playing a musical instrument (15 per cent), arts & crafts (8 per cent) and watching television (6 per cent).

Despite this, half of parents confess to watching more than four hours of television per week as a family compared to just 25 per cent who play more than four hours of sport a week with their children.

Commenting on issues facing an entire generation, Sarah Hobbs says: “In the UK, around 27 per cent of children are now overweight and, clearly, getting the younger generation more active will play a vital part in tackling this massive health issue.

“It was also very sad to see that one in three children (33 per cent of girls and 29 per cent of boys) stated that ‘not being good at sport’ was the reason they don’t participate more. Encouraging children to have a go and get involved in a variety of physical activities from a young age is absolutely vital if they are to develop core skills such as balance, flexibility and hand eye coordination.

“If we don’t nurture these skills when they are young, children will find it difficult to perform well in sporting scenarios as they grow up and there is a danger that they will become reluctant to participate. Children form their life-long habits observing and following the lead of their role models. Parents taking part in sport with their children is a really important part of so many areas of development and fitness, and activity needs to be a priority for families if the long-term health of today’s generation is to be secured.”

For teenagers, it is so much more important to exercise; it is well known that inactivity causes lack of motivation. A fun and meaningful exercise regime aids learning and sense of wellbeing at this critical stage in the move towards adulthood.

In addition to traditional sports, young adults are becoming increasingly interested in the gym and group exercise classes as a means of keeping fit; whatever their interests, it is clear that family support is paramount in steering teenagers in the right direction and forming healthy habits from a young age.

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