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Japan kids lack exercise due to more screen time, less club activity time: sports body

A girl is seen using a smartphone in this undated file photo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- The Japan Sports Agency (JSA) has revealed that children scored lower points in a fiscal 2019 physical strength survey than in the previous academic year as they aren't getting enough exercise due to increased screen time and less time spent on school club activities.

The JSA on Dec. 23 announced the results of a fiscal 2019 physical fitness and motor skills test conducted between April and July, on a total of about 2.01 million fifth-grade elementary and second-year junior high school students at public and private institutions in Japan.

The total points scored in eight sporting events, including a 50-meter dash and a standing long jump, was lower for fifth-graders and second-year junior high students than in fiscal 2018. Boys in the fifth grade scored the lowest points ever recorded since the test was first carried out in the 2008 academic year.

It is believed that the decline in kids' fitness is a result of less time spent on physical activities.

The survey also asked children how much they exercised in one week aside from physical education classes. Only 51.4% of fifth-grade boys and 82.1% of second-year junior high boys said they exercised "at least seven hours a week," down 2.6 and 1.8 percentage points from fiscal 2018, respectively. The overall proportion of children who chose that answer was lower than in the previous academic year, and boys lost more percentage points than girls.

According to the JSA, there are two main reasons schoolchildren aren't getting enough exercise.

First of all, the ratio of kids who said they "spend at least one hour" watching television, using smartphones, playing electronic games or looking at other modern devices had surged. Screen time increased especially for male students, with 59.1% in the fifth grade and 63.5% in the junior high second year choosing the answer -- up 1.7 percentage points from fiscal 2018, respectively.

The test also revealed that the total points for eight sporting events tended to be lower among children with longer screen times.

Secondly, junior high school students spent less time on school club activities in the 2019 academic year. The average duration time of club activities in one week stood at 13 hours and 32 minutes for boys, down 91 minutes from fiscal 2018, and 13 hours and 40 minutes for girls, down 97 minutes.

It is believed that a guideline on school club activities issued by the JSA in March 2018, advising to adopt a system of "at least two days' rest a week" and other principles, had an effect on exercise results. A representative of the JSA said, "It is possible that the time spent off from club activities may have been used as screen time."

In the future, the JSA will establish a committee to mull measures to improve children's physical fitness, which it plans to compile in June next year.

(Japanese original by Kenichi Mito, City News Department)

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