A report found that less than a fifth of children and adolescents with disabilities on the island of Ireland are getting their recommended daily exercise allowance.
The 2022 report, Northern and Southern Ireland Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Adolescents, ranked the overall levels of physical activity that children had as a minus score of C and assigned a score of F to activity levels among children with disabilities.
This means that 40-46 percent of children and teens are getting the recommended physical activity, an improvement over 2016 when 27-33 percent of young people achieved minimum activity levels.
The report, which ranked physical activity in children and teens with disabilities for the first time this year, found that less than 20 percent of children and teens with disabilities achieve minimum levels of activity.
It is recommended that children ages 6 to 17 get at least 60 minutes a day, or an average of a minimum of 60 minutes a day over the course of the week, of moderate to vigorous physical activity.
Dr Kwok Ng of the University of Limerick, who is one of the researchers involved in analyzing the new disability scores featured in the 2022 report, told the Palestinian News Agency: “Global recommendations are to have the same level of physical activity for all children, whether they have disabilities or disabilities. Physical or mental disabilities or not.
“Of course, we are aware that there will be challenges for children with different types of disabilities, but nevertheless what the evidence shows is that 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: “For example, if you have someone with a physical disability and they want to go and play on the field, it may not be available for them. They may need to rely on transportation to help them get somewhere, which is not necessarily available.”
“And that’s one of the things that we take away from this, is that there’s a huge gap and there has to be ways to address that.
“We want them to have the same opportunities and to be able to try to do as much exercise as possible… and we have to be able to provide those opportunities to do that.”
Despite a slight improvement in overall physical activity levels across the island of Ireland since 2016, the report identified a number of inequalities in achieving this recommended minimum.
Males fulfill the guidelines more than females; Younger children were more likely to meet the guidelines than adolescents; And those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds met the guidelines more often.
It also found that future reports will need to consider the impact of Covid-19 restrictions and the pandemic in general on physical activity, when more robust data is available.
Director of Policy 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 it is clear that strategic investment is needed to accelerate progress and extend the benefits of physical activity to all children, including those in a non-social situation and children with disabilities.”
The chair of the research working group, Dr Angela Carlin from the University of Ulster School of Sport, said: “Gender inequalities were also evident, with more males than females meeting physical activity guidelines, particularly in adolescents, while we also found inequality in Socioeconomic status, with children and adolescents from poor backgrounds meeting the guidelines less.
“The findings underscore the need to respond to these inequalities to give all children and adolescents an equal opportunity to be physically active and healthy.”
The 2022 Report Card is the third such report for Ireland and Northern Ireland and provides a score across 11 indicators of physical activity among minors.
The Island of Ireland Report Card was produced as part of the Active Healthy Kids Global Alliance, which was founded in 2014 to promote exercise and physical activity among children and adolescents.
The Ireland Report Card is funded by the Public Health Agency, the Department of Health and Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Sports, Sports Ireland and the Institute of Public Health.