Many youngsters with disabilities miss sports activities each day

Less than a fifth of children and youth with disabilities on the island of Ireland get the recommended daily amount of exercise, a report found.

The 2022 report, Northern and Southern Ireland Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Adolescents, rates children’s overall physical activity level as a C grade and assigns an F score to activity level among children with disabilities.

This means that 40-46% of children and adolescents get the recommended physical activity, an increase in 2016 when 27-33% of adolescents reached the minimum activity level.

The report, which assessed physical activity among children and youth with disabilities for the first time this year, found that less than 20% of children and youth with disabilities reached minimum activity levels.

The report also found that children with disabilities need more family and peer support to be physically active than the general population.

It is recommended that children ages six to 17 get a minimum of 60 minutes each day, or an average of at least 60 minutes each day of the week, of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity.

While there has been a slight increase in overall physical activity levels across the island of Ireland since 2016, the report identifies a number of inequalities in reaching these recommended minimums.

More men met the guidelines than women; younger children are more likely to meet the guidelines than adolescents; and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds meet the guidelines less frequently.

It also found that future reports would need to consider the impact of Covid-19 restrictions and the overall pandemic on physical activity, when more robust data becomes available.

Policy director at the Institute of Public Health Dr Helen McAvoy said of the findings: “This report on children’s physical activity is timely as it coincides with the recent publication of a review of the Irish government’s National Physical Activity Plan.

“Progress has been made but strategic investments are clearly needed to accelerate progress and extend the benefits of physical activity to all children, including those living with social disadvantage and children with disabilities.”

The chair of the research working group, Dr Angela Carlin of the School of Sport at Ulster University, said: “Gender inequalities are also evident, with more men than women meeting physical activity guidelines, particularly in adolescents, while we also find inequality in socioeconomic status. , with children and youth from poorer backgrounds meeting the guidelines less frequently.

“These findings underscore the need to address these inequalities to give all children and youth an equal opportunity to be physically active and healthy.”

The 2022 Report Card is the third report of its kind for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and provides scores across 11 indicators for physical activity among minors.

The report card for the island of Ireland was produced as part of the Global Alliance for Healthy Active Children, which was founded in 2014 to promote sport and physical activity among children and youth.

Irish report cards are funded by the Public Health Agency, Irish Department of Health and Wellness, Northern Ireland Sport, Irish Sport and the Institute of Public Health.

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