Almost a third (31 per cent) of Irish parents say they are too busy to take their children to sports training sessions or games, a new survey suggests.
It also finds one in five parents say the cost of getting their children involved in sports is too high.
It also suggests the vast majority of parents believe an excessive interest in technology is responsible for their children’s lack of sportiness although almost two-thirds admitted to not knowing what the recommended amount of exercise children should get a day was.
The survey of 1000 parents of children aged six to 13 was published on Tuesday on behalf of Kellogg’s to promote its involvement with GAA summer Cúl camps.
Guidelines suggest that children should be active at a moderate to vigorous level for an hour each day but the survey suggested that a significant proportion of parents believed that half that amount of exercise was sufficient.
A lack of exercise and the excessive marketing of sugary foods at a younger audience is contributing to an increase in obesity levels among Ireland's children with a Growing Up in Ireland report stating that 22 per cent of nine-year-olds in Ireland are overweight and 5 per cent are obese.
According to the survey three quarters of Irish parents want to increase their children’s exercise intake with 56 per cent saying they would like their offspring to spend more time outdoors.
A separate study by Prof Niall Moyna of Dublin City University, which examined the wellbeing of inactive teenagers, revealed that the cardiovascular health of some inactive 15-year-olds was comparable to that of 55 to 60-year-olds, with significantly more plaque on the walls of their arteries.
Dr Malie Coyne a clinical child psychologist told The Irish Times that costs associated with getting children involved in sport could be prohibitively expensive but she pointed out that there were many low cost options available and she stressed the importance of children getting involved in sports both for their physical and mental well being.
She expressed concern that so many parents believed that they did not have time to bring their children to training and to matches. She said that while it was certainly an issue for some parents, for others it could be signposting a need to manage their time better.
“When both parents are working long hours,then time is obviously going to be an issue but others might have a perception that it will take up more time than is actually the case.”
She said it was vitally important that children be encouraged to take part in sport and said those who did get involved would most likely see the benefits stretch into their adulthood as participation would make them better able to deal with hurdles and obstacles they encountered along the way.
“Children who are involved in team sports in particular can develop real resilience and become better equipped to deal with disappointments that are an inevitable part of life,” she said.