Children in Hong Kong spend less time exercising outdoors than prisoners, researcher says

Hong Kong children spend less time exercising outdoors than prisoners, according to HKU researcher Dr. Robin Mellecker.

SCMP reports that Mellecker, of the university’s Institute of Human Performance, said that local schools do not prioritise physical activity adequately, despite its positive effect on mental health.

“Prison inmates get more outdoor time than school kids,” said Mellecker, who reasoned that students’ mental health and academic performance would benefit from the feeling of euphoria caused by endorphins after physical exercise.

She cited statistics from a local primary school, which showed that students are given a combined 295 minutes of exercise and outdoor time in a five-day school week, comprising two 35-minute gym classes, in addition to 20 minutes of recess and 25 minutes of after-lunch playtime every day.

In contrast, a spokesperson for Correctional Services said Hong Kong prison inmates are allotted an hour of outdoor exercise every day, totalling 300 minutes of outdoor time per five days. 

While five minutes may seem like a small difference, Mellecker said the comparison shows how much emphasis is placed on academia in local schools.

She argued that participating in sports has been shown to “increase self-esteem and coping mechanisms”, which would better prepare students to overcome emotional obstacles.

Dr. Frances Law, from the university’s Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention, said, “More sports, activities and playtime for children are necessary and crucial [for them] to learn how to compete, gain satisfaction and be recognised in … way[s] other than academic performance.”

There has been widespread concern about academic pressure in Hong Kong recently, with 23 cases of students committing suicide recorded since September. 


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