The first "Global Matrix" using
nine indicators
of children's physical activity has ranked video game-obsessed Scots among the least active in the world.

So much for the days when active Scottish lads spent their days headbutting and then kicking each other on the ground. Now they only do it in "Splinter Cell: Blacklist".

Out of 15 countries assessed, Scottish kids were ranked lowest in physical activity and highest in screen-based leisure time, including watching TV and gaming.  The other countries submitting data were Australia, Canada, Colombia, England, Finland, Ghana, Ireland, Kenya, Mexico, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa and the United States. 

They know they have a problem. Scotland rated better than most in "national policies, strategies, and investments in relation to child and adolescent physical activity" and "having a supportive community/built environment for child and adolescent physical activity", which goes to show you that papers written by committees and mewled about by indignant politicians don't actually accomplish much.

The nine indicators were overall physical activity; organised sport participation; active play; active transportation; sedentary behaviours; family and peers; school; community and built environment; and government strategies and investments. Each of these indicators is assigned a grade in the Global Matrix – from the top "A" mark, down to "F".

Scotland scored an "F" in overall physical activity, and sedentary behavior, screen-based leisure time. Its best ratings – of "B" – came in the categories of "community and built environment" – which includes the availability of parks and playgrounds – as well as "government strategies and investments".

Professor of Physical Activity and Public Health Science John Reilly, of the University of Strathclyde, said, "The Global Matrix reveals an interesting relationship between lower physical activity and higher sedentary behavior in countries with better infrastructure, and indeed we found this to be the case in Scotland.

"What comes out very strongly is there is great variation around the globe and no single country has found a magic formula to improve children's health. Countries tend to score well in some categories – such as in the community and built environment – but badly in other areas, such as overall physical activity, and this suggests there is great untapped potential for nations to learn from each other, in order to improve the health of children around the world.

"We hope that the publication of this first Global Matrix will encourage other nations, which aren't represented, to develop their own Active Healthy Kids Report Cards, to further our international understanding of global variations in the physical activity of children."

New Zealand and Mozambique reported the highest grades ("B") for "overall physical activity", while 10 countries reported low or failing grades ("D" or "F"), suggesting there is widespread evidence of a childhood inactivity crisis. New Zealand and Australia reported the highest grades ("B" and "B-minus" respectively) for "organized sport participation", while most other countries clustered around a "C" grade, indicating that about half of children participated in sport.

Grades for "active transportation", such as walking or cycling to school, ranged from "B" in Finland, Nigeria and Mozambique, to "F" in the United States. Ghana and Kenya reported the best grades ("B") for "sedentary behavior" but, while there was significant global variation, the majority of countries had very poor or failing marks in this category.

When it came to schools' delivery of, investment in – and policies for – physical education, scores ranged from "A-minus" in England, to "D" in South Africa. While the grades were generally high for "community and the built environment, they still ranged from "A-minus" in Australia to "F" in Mexico and Mozambique.

Article: "Physical Activity of Children: A Global Matrix of Grades Comparing 15 Countries", the Journal of Physical Activity and Health. Source: University of Strathclyde