Exeter celebrates 25 years of leading children’s health and exercise research
The University of Exeter is marking a quarter of a century of leading research into children’s health and wellbeing by hosting the world’s biggest and most prestigious paediatric exercise and health conference.
The International Symposium of the European Group of Pediatric Work Physiology will be hosted by the University of Exeter’s Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre (CHERC) from 19 to 23 September.
The latest world-wide research on many of the lines of enquiry initiated in CHERC will be presented. The International Olympic Committee Statement on promoting children’s health through sport and exercise will be presented by the IOC Expert Group for the first time.
The University of Exeter founded CHERC 25 years ago in response to the preliminary report of the University’s Coronary Prevention in Children Research Group. At the time little was known about how children’s bodies respond to exercise in relation to growth and maturation and children were mistakenly treated as ‘mini-adults’. In addition to its research programme the Children’s Health and Exercise Research Centre provided the first PhD training and the first taught MSc programme in paediatric exercise science in the UK. Former members of the CHERC team are in academic posts in universities throughout the world.
Professor Neil Armstrong, University of Exeter Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Director of CHERC said: “25 years on and, thanks to the work of CHERC and others, we know a huge amount about how children’s bodies respond to exercise. Paediatric sport and exercise medicine has been established as a major research topic around the world and we have helped to keep the issue of children’s health and exercise in the public eye. Our research has time and time again shown that physical activity is essential for healthy young bodies.”
CHERC’s initial studies of 800 11 to 16-year-olds identified for the first time the prevalence of coronary risk factors in British children. The findings characterised the fitness and physical activity patterns of children and adolescents and stimulated an investigation of the relationship between fitness, physical activity and young people’s health and wellbeing. This work provided the basis for the development of lines of enquiry which are still active.
The researchers demonstrated for the first time that many British young people had adopted sedentary lifestyles; boys were generally more active than girls and physical activity declined through adolescence. When the findings were presented as the first item on BBC and ITN national television news on the day of publication in the British Medical Journal (1990) the media coined the phrase ‘couch potatoes’ to describe the phenomenon which predicted the current paediatric obesity epidemic.
The Centre has now disseminated its research through over 600 publications, including 17 books and over 100 book chapters and review papers. The Centre team has been invited to present its research in 41 countries, made over 500 presentations to international and national conferences and presented over 100 workshops for teachers, paediatricians and researchers.
The Centre conducts studies with ‘ordinary’ children and adolescents as well as elite young athletes. The team has also worked with groups of children with debilitating conditions like cystic fibrosis.
The impact of CHERC’s research on children’s health and well-being was recognised in 1998 with the award of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. The Prize was the first to be awarded in sport and exercise science and medicine.
Co-Director of CHERC, Professor Craig Williams said: “Our scientific discoveries about how children and adolescents respond to exercise have helped to pave the way for this exciting area of research. 25 years since CHERC was founded and this conference will be attended by 120 of the scientists from around the globe who are now focused on this discipline.”
The International Symposium of the European Group of Pediatric Work Physiology will be held from 19 to 23 September at the Bedruthan Steps Hotel, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall.
Date: 19 September 2011