Sport on television

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DISTURBING new evidence that the nation's children face a serious threat to their long-term health by not taking enough exercise will be unveiled in BBC1's More Than a Game on Tuesday (10.55-11.45pm), writes Paul Trow.

Based on the assumption that heart disease originates in childhood, Dr Neil Armstrong, reader in exercise science at Exeter University, has concluded that the lifestyle of today's youngsters needs a radical overhaul.

Dr Armstrong spent a year studying 707 Devon children aged 11 to 16, and he found that one-third of the boys and half the girls did not even manage the equivalent of a brisk 10-minute walk per day.

He also discovered that 20 per cent of the children had levels of cholesterol in their blood above the safe maximum recommended for adults by the World Health Organisation. And this is worse than it seems because cholesterol levels increase as people get older.'

On the strength of his report, the British Heart Foundation in 1989 commissioned a further survey of a cross-section of 250 10- year-olds from Exeter. That second study, which began two years ago, aims to monitor each child for two weeks every year through to the age of 16 and includes two days a year of laboratory tests.

In addition to repeating the usual shibboleths about smoking, over-eating and a lack of organised sport being to blame, Dr Armstrong pinpointed computer games and the growing tendency for children to travel to and from school by car rather than on foot.

He might also have suggested that the children were watching too much television, but that may be a little too much to expect of a television programme, even one projecting such a vital message.