Children’s feet may affect physical activity

01 March, 2011

The make-up of children’s feet may discourage them from being active, a new study has shown.

The study featuring in the January 2011 issue of The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (JSAMS), published by Sports Medicine Australia, is the first to determine whether foot pressures generated during walking by preschool children were related to time spent in physical activity and sedentary behaviour.

Results showed children who experience greater pressures on the plantar surface of the foot may suffer more pain and discomfort during weight bearing activities which in turn may act as a barrier to physical activity.

Author of the study, Karen Mickle from the Biomechanics Research Laboratory, School of Health Sciences, University of Wollongong said further research needs to be done to reduce plantar pressures in inactive children so they can enjoy the benefits associated with participating in a more active lifestyle.

"Participation in physical activity provides numerous benefits for children including improved cardiovascular risk factors, muscular strength and endurance, skeletal health, mental health and academic performance," said Mickle.

"Given the health benefits of physical activity for preschool children and the proportions who do not meet recommended levels for physical activity, better understanding of the factors that influence such behaviours among young children is paramount for successful efforts and for public health promotion.

"Identifying children who have foot discomfort associated with high plantar pressures may be an important step in removing a potential barrier to these children participating in physical activity," said Mickle.

How to act on your child’s foot discomfort

  • Provide comfortable, well fitting shoes that reduce pressure under the foot. This may reduce foot discomfort whilst children participate in physical activity.
  • Promote activities that reduce loading on the feet, such as cycling and swimming, as this may also encourage children with foot discomfort to be more physically active.
Source: The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport (JSAMS)