Children in germany are too sluggish

Early practice. And those who don't practice early will be left behind. According to new analyses, children in Germany are moving a little more on average and the number of overweight first-graders is declining slightly – but that is no reason to breathe a sigh of relief, says the dpa. On the contrary: "The gap between very fit children and those who don't exercise at all is widening," says Alexander Woll from the Institute for Sports and Sports Science (IfSS) at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). "There are more and more children with motor problems."

The researchers' findings are based, among other things, on the long-term study "Motorik-Modul," in which the motor skills of nearly 5,000 children and adolescents between the ages of 4 and 17 were recorded between 2003 and 2006 and between 2009 and 2012. The children had to do push-ups, run backwards, hop or jump. The comparison between the two study periods – the results have only been available for a short time – showed a slight upward trend. But, "35 percent of 4- to 17-year-olds, for example, can't take three steps backward on a three-inch-wide bar," Woll says.

Woll, who has overseen the study from the beginning and will continue it in several waves until 2021, concludes: "Even if the negative trend has stopped for the time being, the situation is still very bad." While society has never been as sporty as it is now. "At the same time, however, lack of exercise has never before been as big a problem as it is today." Movement paradox he calls it.

According to Woll, there is an enormous range of organized sports in schools, sports clubs and fitness clubs throughout Germany. But this cannot compensate for what society has lost in "unorganized sport" – kicking on the street, for example, or playing in the woods. "Children have lost many of their everyday spaces for movement," also says Swantje Scharenberg, who heads the Research Center for School Sports and Sports for Children and Adolescents (FoSS) in Karlsruhe, Germany.

She takes a positive view of the fact that all-day schools are being expanded almost across the board and that more and more sports are being offered there, also in cooperation with sports clubs. This is one of the reasons why children are getting more exercise on average. According to Pia Janben, a sports orthopedist at the University Hospital in Tubingen, one danger here is that "the more organized the sport, the more one-sided the child's strain will be."

So there is a need for action: Parents must be brought on board and set a good example. In elementary schools, there are up to 900 minutes of pure recess time per week – "which could be used for physical activity if, for example, the recess yard offers incentives such as a slackline for movement or the children can borrow balls," says Scharenberg. Primary school teachers also teach sport, often without having studied sport, and therefore urgently need more further training.

"Overall, the periods of inactivity are simply increasing," Woll explains. "There are kids who are quite strong in media, in passivity."According to its figures, around 60 percent of boys and 50 percent of girls spend three hours or more a day in front of screens of some kind. "Less than one-third of children and adolescents achieve the physical activity recommendation of at least 60 minutes per day."

The fact that the number of elementary school children enrolled in sports clubs, for example, has now risen to 80 percent doesn't change anything. "That says nothing about how intensively active these children are there," explains sports scientist Woll. The German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB) does not have any figures on this.

Also, according to the Employers' Association of German Fitness and Health Facilities (DSSV), more and more minors are flocking to studios, especially in the discount sector. However, according to a spokesperson, these are mostly young people over the age of 16. Although there are also providers with special courses, for example, for overweight children under ten who already suffer from diabetes or high blood prere. "But these are still a marginal phenomenon in the market so far," the spokesman says. There are no figures on this.

According to the researchers, parents and teachers continue to focus far too much on the intellectual abilities of the child. Education experts spoke highly of early education in math, German, English. "No one is talking about early development of motor skills," Woll complains. "In the process, if you don't provide enough opportunities for movement, you deprive children of fundamental developmental opportunities." Sports orthopedist Janben recommends: "Get out on the street, kick, climb and brawl."

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