A 2016 UK Government report into the issue of child obesity opened with this depressing statement:
‘Today nearly a third of children aged 2 to 15 are overweight or obese, and younger generations are becoming obese at earlier ages and staying obese for longer’
It went on to list some of the common knock-on effects in these children’s lives: emotionally, academically and physically. The first page of the report (Childhood Obesity: A Plan for Action) does not make for comfortable reading, and the battle plans it lays out might do nothing more than motivate the cynic living within each of us.
The first one, a new tax on soft drinks, has already received much publicity and created a debate. Others, such as sugar reduction targets, support for food producers and better school and parental nutritional education all have the potential to make a difference; but feel a bit too long-term for today’s young people. Among these commitments, however, is a quick fix to create a lasting impression that could start a habit of a lifetime and change a child’s future forever. That may sound like a bold statement, and maybe it is, but it is also one backed by scientific studies, observational experience and simple common sense. It centres around promoting children’s activities.
Helping children to enjoy an hour of physical activity every day
Under the headline above, the report sets out various targets and initiatives to help achieve this ambition. It points out that on average there are already two hours per week of PE, in most schools, plus there is an opportunity to run around for 30 minutes per day during breaks. But for me the most important word in the statement is ‘enjoy’.
You see, not all children enjoy physical activity, PE or running around a playground. But surely all children enjoy being healthy, feeling alert, doing well in lessons, and being more secure in their personal appearance among their peers. I’m not suggesting, for a moment, that any of these things make an individual more or less valuable or worthy of respect: simply that they are good goals and are eminently achievable for every single child in the UK.
Ask any child which subject they enjoy most at school and which they get the best results in, and nine times out of ten the answers will be the same. We tend to apply ourselves more, and as a result achieve more, in the areas of life that we are more enthusiastic about. So, helping children to ‘enjoy’ sport or physical activity has to be one of the most critical and compassionate endeavours any government, organisation, school or parent could embark upon.
Good for your child’s head, health, happiness and hereafter…
Studies repeatedly show that healthier bodies are more effective, both mentally and physically. Conversely, unhealthy bodies can be a breeding ground for heart disease, diabetes, depression and other life-suppressing conditions. Enjoying physical activity, then, is surely a win-win for every child (and indeed every adult).
Lifelong improved health through enjoyable physical exercise is a process that can start today, for pretty much any school-attending child. More than that though, it is something that they can learn to desire, appreciate and see the benefits of in their lives. Whether a child has an academic streak, an appetite for technology, their head locked in far-flung imaginary lands or is just too gentle in nature to want to compete… they can come to appreciate exercise.
If you would like to learn more about helping your child, the children you teach or any children that you know or care about to ‘enjoy’ physical activity (for the benefit of the whole life ahead of them), get in touch today.
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