Physical activity and health in children: How much do we know?

  • MA Monyeki
Keywords: Physical activity, health-related fitness, epidemiology, overweight, non-communicable diseases.


Globally, physical inactivity is a major public health concern to human life. In modern times, technological advances, mechanization and automation have radically reduced human physical activity. Surely, it has been found that physical inactivity has significant relationship with overweight or obesity in children and adults alike. The aim of this study was to provide an overview of physical activity and health in children. The specific objective of this study was to examine these research questions regarding the physical activity and health of the South African children: Are South African children active or fit enough?; Why are children not physically active/fit?; Is it necessary for children to be physically active/fit? Is there a need for health-related physical activity and Physical Education programmes in the school curriculum? In addressing these questions numerous sources such as Science Direct, Sport Discus, PubMed, EBSCOHost, MEDLINE, Sabinet, Google Scholar, books, journals as well as government documents were consulted. From the reviewed sources it was evident that South African children nowadays are not as active or fit enough compared to generations of children in the past three decades. Literature indicated the prevalence of both underweight and overweight in children, with high increase in the prevalence of overweight. The most inactive children were reported to be found in urban areas, whilst rural children are found to be more active. Numerous epidemiological studies on physical activity and non-communicable diseases of lifestyle indicated that inactivity was associated with a number of non-communicable diseases of lifestyle such as obesity which is amongst other linked to high percentage body fat, hypertension, type II diabetes, low self-esteem. Evidence is available regarding the benefits of regular participation in physical activity which amongst others include cognitive development, good performance in physical fitness, hence sports, social conducts; management of body weight, blood pressure, glucose level, asthma, etc. Epidemiological findings have indicated numerous challenges regarding physical inactivity and its negative effect on health and economy. Given the epidemic of physical inactivity and its negative outcomes on health and well-being, it is imperative to include physical education as a compulsory subject in the curriculum and emphasise the general advocacy on physical activity and health.

Keywords: Physical activity, health-related fitness, epidemiology, overweight, non-communicable diseases.


Journal Identifiers

print ISSN: 2411-6939