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14 April 2011 | PR 11/42

Loughborough University academics help to chart changes in children’s body shape

A survey involving experts from Loughborough University has revealed changes in the average body shape of children over the past 20 years.

The results of Shape GB, the first ever national sizing survey to use 3D body scanners to measure children, were published today (Thursday).

The part publicly funded study into the shape of children aged four to 17 involved universities, major high street retailers and specialists in 3D measurement.

Design ergonomics experts at Loughborough used the University’s specialist three-dimensional scanning facilities to accurately measure children from the local community, as part of the project.

The University’s Dr Russell Marshall, of Loughborough Design School, said: “Previous size data available for children was at least 20 years old and so we were very pleased to be able to collaborate in the Shape GB sizing survey and ultimately contribute to the development of more user-driven products.”

The survey provides a clear understanding of the changing shape of the nation’s children. The last time this information was gathered was in 1990.

Since then, clothing retailers have used customer feedback and internal fittings to improve their own measurements.

Shape GB data now provides the industry with a new benchmark and insight into children’s size and shape.

The data shows that height and weight of children has increased gradually over the last two decades and this has led to a change in size and shape.

When comparing the data for 11-year-old boys and girls, chest, waist and hips have all increased. There are significant changes in body shape for children. Many retailers assume that boys and girls have the same body shape up to the age of seven, but Shape GB now concludes that changes in body shape between boys and girls occur at a much earlier age.

The data also suggests that retailers need to reflect increases in height in their labelling, as many currently label a five-year-old boy as being an average height of 110cm.  Shape GB calculates the average height of a five-year-old boy at 115cm, suggesting that many parents are being forced to ‘buy up’ to get clothes that will fit their children properly.  

Over an 18-month period from March 2009 to August 2010, more than 2,500 children aged four to 17 were scanned at 12 locations across England, Scotland and Wales.

The 3D scanners collated nearly 200 measurements automatically in six seconds for each child, creating a robust 3D data set never previously available.

Four sponsoring retailers - Next, Monsoon, Shop Direct and George at Asda - are using the Shape GB data set to design future clothing ranges.

A spokesperson for Next said: “Shape GB gives us invaluable up-to-date information on the size of our children and provides us with new information on shape, which cannot be collected manually. We are now able to use this information for sizing and labelling to ensure the best possible fit for children and their parents.’’

Other retailers are now able to obtain the data, which may ultimately create and harmonise measurement standards, both in this country and in Europe.

The new data also offers opportunities for further insight and development on body shape for sports scientists and for healthcare.

The other collaborating organisations in the UK on Shape GB were: Aston University, George at ASDA, University of Hull, University of Hertfordshire, Manchester Metropolitan University, Monsoon, Next, Select Research and Shop Direct Group. 

−ENDS−

For all media enquiries contact:

Sarah Hall
Marketing and Communications Officer
Enterprise Office
Loughborough University
T: 01509 228684
E: S.Hall@lboro.ac.uk 

Notes for editors:

About Loughborough University
Loughborough Design School is home to world-class expertise in design and technology, ergonomics and safety-related ergonomics. 

Its staff have world-leading reputations for their research, teaching and collaboration with industry, commerce and the public sector.

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It was awarded the coveted Sunday Times University of the Year 2008-09 title, and is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in national newspaper league tables. In the 2010 National Student Survey, Loughborough was voted one of the top universities in the UK, and has topped the Times Higher Education league for the UK’s Best Student Experience every year since the poll's inception in 2006. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, the University has been awarded six Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

Loughborough is also the UK’s premier university for sport. It has perhaps the best integrated sports development environment in the world and is home to some of the country’s leading coaches, sports scientists and support staff. It also has the country’s largest concentration of world-class training facilities across a wide range of sports.

It is a member of the 1994 Group of 19 leading research-intensive universities. The Group was established in 1994 to promote excellence in university research and teaching. Each member undertakes diverse and high-quality research, while ensuring excellent levels of teaching and student experience.

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