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Work it out this winter

With the darker evenings upon us, keeping children active can be a task.

And new research has confirmed that lighter evenings are linked with higher physical activity levels in children and young people.

A study in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity has concluded that permanently increasing the hours of waking daylight could deliver health benefits.

The study involved more than 23,000 children aged five to 16 in England, Australia, USA, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Switzerland, Brazil and Madeira, Portugal, who wore accelerometers to measure body movement. Researchers from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Bristol looked at their physical activity levels in relation to the time
of sunset, finding their total daily activity levels were 15-20 per cent higher on summer days where the sun went down after 9pm, compared with winter days when it was before 5pm.

The research suggests that additional daylight savings measures would lead to an average two extra minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per child per day. With children accumulating an overall average of 33 minutes a day of this type of activity, an additional two minutes represents around a five per cent increase.

Anna Goodman, lead author from London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “This study provides the strongest evidence to date that, in Europe and Australia, evening daylight plays a role in increasing physical activity in the late afternoon and early evening – the ‘critical hours’ for children’s outdoor play. Introducing additional daylight savings measures would affect each and every child in the country, every day of the year, giving it a far greater reach than most other potential policy initiatives to improve public health.”