The study, by the University of Worcester's institute of sport and exercise science, was small in scale but reached the same conclusions as earlier research on how active children really are, as opposed to what they and their parents believe to be the case.
Monitors to measure physical activity were given to 40 children aged nine and 10 from four primary schools across the UK, to wear for a fortnight. The children also completed questionnaires on how they spent their time. The results revealed that they managed on average 33 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day – just over half the recommended amount – and their main leisure activities were entirely sedentary. They watched television on average for 67 minutes a day, sat down to play computer games for 21 minutes a day, and surfed the internet for a further 17 minutes.
Meanwhile the parents believed their children averaged 271 active minutes a day, more than eight times the amount they actually achieved. In the summer months the parents thought their children were even more active, averaging 295 minutes.
Last year the government slashed Change4Life's budget, controversially calling on the private sector including the drinks industry to make up the shortfall. But the health secretary, Andrew Lansley, was forced to announce a U-turn in May and largely restore the funding because of the lack of response when the campaign was no longer being publicised.
Public health minister Anne Milton said tackling obesity was not just about eating better but about children spending at least an active hour a day.
"If we are going to turn around the life chances of our children it's important parents understand why being the right weight matters so much for their children. Children who are overweight could face serious health problems later in life, These problems impact hugely on a person's quality of life," she said. Milton launched a six-week summer Change4Life campaign and also promised to continue the national child measurement programme in schools.
Shadow public health minister Diane Abbott said the UK now had a "chips and Playstation 3 culture", worsened by fears about the safety of children. "Childhood obesity has become a problem of poverty and what we need is nothing short of a huge sea change. I am calling for a revolution and a national movement to tackle the children's health problems that Britain is currently facing," she said.
Many children could not or did not attend local schools, she said, and so travelled by car or bus instead of walking, while in too many schools government-driven budget cuts had led to the axing of school sports, and safety fears meant that instead of afternoons playing out, children spent free time watching television or playing video and internet games.
The new study backs up previous Health Survey England data showing that only a third of boys and a fifth of girls were getting the recommended amount of exercise.
Want to take part in more physical activity?
Why not check out Get Active Wesport. Get Active Wesport is a sport and activity finder that list clubs, facilities and actives across the West of England. To view Get Active Wesport please go to www.wesport.org.uk/getactivewesport.