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 the overall level of physical activity children get as a minus C and assigns an F score for activity levels among children with disabilities.
This means that 40-46 percent of children and adolescents get the recommended physical activity, an increase in 2016 when 27-33 percent of teens 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 percent of children and youth with disabilities reached the minimum activity level.
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.
Dr Kwok Ng of the University of Limerick, one of the researchers involved in analyzing the new disability rates featured in the 2022 report, told the PA news agency: “The global recommendation is to have the same level of physical activity for all children, whether they are disabled, physical disability, intellectual disability or not.
“Of course, we recognize there will be challenges faced by children with different types of disorders, but the evidence suggests there are still health benefits to be achieved from the same level of recommendations.”
The report also found that children with disabilities need more family and peer support to be physically active than the general population.
Dr Ng continued: “So for example, if you have someone with a physical impairment and they want to go and play on the playground, it may not be accessible to them. They may need to rely on transportation to help them get somewhere, and that may not necessarily be accessible.
“And this is one of the things we take away from this, is that there is this huge gap and there has to be a way to address it.
“We want them to have the same opportunities and that they can try to exercise as much as they can… and we have to be able to give them that opportunity to do that.”
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 often.
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 from 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 socioeconomic inequalities. status, with children and youth from poorer backgrounds meeting the guidelines less frequently.
“These findings underscore the need to address these inequalities to provide all children and youth with equal opportunities to be physically active and healthy.”
The 2022 Report Card is the third report of its kind for Ireland and Northern Ireland and provides scores across 11 indicators for physical activity among minors.
The report card for the island of Ireland was created 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, the Irish Department of Health and Wellness, Northern Ireland Sport, Irish Sport and the Institute of Public Health.