A rather charming British study has determined that children get more physical activity, largely through unstructured outdoor play, the more hours of sunshine there are in a day.
The study, published Thursday in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health, offers its findings as support of proposed British legislation that would extend that country’s equivalent of Daylight Saving Time throughout the year, shifting the clocks forward an hour to allow for more sunny after-school hours. Such a move, the authors note, could add 200 hours of potential playtime per year and perhaps help kids combat being overweight.
Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine used devices called accelerometers to measure the physical activity of 325 British schoolchildren, ages 8-11, throughout the year; the kids also kept simple diaries recording their activities. In brief, the study found that kids were most active on the longest days of the year (with 14 or more hours of daylight), with most of their activity taking place between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. That held for weekdays and weekend days alike. The amount of physical activity kids got was not affected by such factors as rainfall, cloud cover or wind. There was little difference between activity levels on short (less than 9.5 hours of daylight) and medium-length (between 10.2 and 12.6 hours of daylight) days.
I love the idea that those British kids were outside playing during those late afternoon and early evening hours. Do the kids in your neighborhood play outdoors on long summer afternoons? And do you think extending Daylight Saving Time to apply year-round would have any effect on American kids’ activity levels?