There is strong evidence that regular physical activity is associated with numerous health benefits for children. The UK chief medical officers recommend that all children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes every day.
Many schools already offer an average of two hours of PE or other physical activities per week. However, we need to do more to encourage children to be active every day. Every primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. At least 30 minutes should be delivered in school every day through active break times, PE, extra–curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events, with the remaining 30 minutes supported by parents and carers outside of school time. HM Government, Childhood Obesity: a plan for action, 2016
From a parent’s perspective
According to research, a child is 50% more likely to be physically active if they have a physically active parent. As a parent, I am always thinking about my children’s health and well-being. In fact, from the moment our children are born we are encouraged to promote their physical development and told that this directly links to their brain development – lifting their head, stretching for toys, rolling over, sitting up, walking…the list goes on! Why then should this stop?
Ultimately, a number of barriers seem to have developed over the years, leading to an ever–increasing sedentary lifestyle; watching television, more office jobs, computer games, mobile phones, the internet. The days of playing out with friends seem a distant memory and I find myself asking the question why? Is it the lack of safe places? Is it the ease of buying technology and how this has become the social norm for communicating? I think these are big factors.
For me, having healthy, happy children is my primary goal. I want the very best for my children, and I want them to live long, healthy lives where they function well in society and enjoy life. Leading active lifestyles is key to this and I fully believe that this will support their emotional well-being. With mental health at the forefront of all our minds, this is more important than ever.
I think one of the most important things to remember is that it’s not just joining sports clubs that promotes being physically active. I know first–hand the expense of paying sports club fees and it certainly does add up!
There are many ways parents can promote active lifestyles to their children, examples include:
• Walking, cycling or scooting to and from school
• Going for family walks
• Playing a game together outside
• Even just walking to the shop or taking the stairs instead of the lift!
For my family, being active together is a way of bonding and spending time together and also a way to let off some steam, especially if we’ve been cooped up inside all day! We are role models to our children and ultimately as the statistic on the left states if we are active our children are more likely to be active.
Being active is not just about moving more. We also need to build our muscle strength and motor skills, and our ‘physical literacy’. Active play is a fundamental part of physical, social and emotional development from infancy. Good physical development in children is linked to other types of positive development, such as speech and co–ordination. Moreover, being active in childhood builds the foundation for an active adult life. Once learnt, a skill like swimming or riding a bike is there for life. Play England (2008) Play for a Change: Play, Policy and Practice: A review of contemporary perspectives
From a teacher’s perspective
As a teacher, I want all my pupils to be healthy, happy and resilient. I want them to be empathetic towards others, aspirational and contribute to the best of their ability in all areas of learning.
Fundamentally these are all aspects that sport and physical activity offer, so why not use physical activity as a mechanism to drive learning across the curriculum? Surely, it’s a win win? Children are healthy and active, and we have children that demonstrate great attitudes and learning behaviours.
Ideas for physical activity for children and young people:
• Active break times
• Extra–curricular clubs
• Daily Mile/Golden Mile/Marathon
• Active lessons
• Wake Up! Shake Up!
• Cosmic Yoga
• GoNoodle/Just Dance/GoPro Bobsled
• Standing desks
• Active travel
• Change 4 Life/Physical activity club
(Ideas courtesy of Yorkshire Sport)
The benefits of physical activity are not just rooted in physical health, but also brain development, emotional well-being and social relationships. If we want our children to grow into well–rounded individuals, then I fully believe that getting active plays a central role to this