UK clock change could benefit children’s health


Researchers claim that children’s health could benefit if the UK was to switch to continental time by moving the clocks forward by one hour.

The study indicates that the amount of time children remain involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity per day will increase by two minutes. They do not regard this small amount of time as trivial.

The study included the comparison of 23000 children between the ages of five and 16 in England, the US, Denmark, Switzerland, Madeira, Australia, Norway, Estonia and Brazil. The children were requested to wear accelerometers, which are electronic devices to measure body movements. This was done in an attempt to test the effect of daylight on activity levels.

The results indicated that the total daily activity levels of children were 15% to 20% higher during summer when the sun goes down after 9pm, compared to winter when it became dark before 5pm. This applied to Australian and European populations in particular, even after adjustments were made for weather conditions and the temperatures.

Dr Anna Goodman, the lead researcher from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that this study has thus far provided the strongest evidence that in Europe and Australia evening daylight plays a huge role in the increase of physical activity during the late afternoon and early evening, which are important hours for outdoor play for children.

She said that the introduction of added daylight savings measures would have an impact on every child in the country, every day of the year and offering a greater reach than other potential initiatives to improve the health of the public.

A bill was debated in parliament between 2010 and 2012 to move the clocks forward, but it failed. Scientists say that if it had become law, it would have given children an added 200 extra waking daylight hours per annum.

The co-author of the research, Professor Ashley Cooper, from the University of Bristol, said that the introduction of additional daylight savings would not solve the problem of declining physical activity, but it is a step forward.

Image Credit: Morten Liebach


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