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Life habits learned young

The awful consequences of inactivity continue to shock and yet the solution is right under our noses – we must teach children self-care while they’re at school

by Liz Terry, Leisure Media | Published in Sports Management 2018 issue 3
Read on turning pages | Download PDF of this issue

At the ukactive Summit recently, delegates heard that 120 amputations of feet and toes are carried out each week in the UK, as a result of type 2 diabetes caused by obesity.

This shocking statistic is just the latest in a long line of indicators which show how far we’re straying from health. It also gives an insight into the brutal reality of the current situation.

Also launched at the event was Generation Inactive 2, the new report on kids’ activity levels. It makes grim reading, with only 25 per cent of boys and 20 per cent of girls in England doing the recommended 60 minutes of activity each day, and less in the holidays.

The government has our children pretty much all day from the age of four to 16-23 and during those years, has the opportunity to teach them self-care and inspire them to a lifelong exercise habit.

Yet this is simply isn’t happening and we’re raising generations of broken kids with mental health issues and physical and health challenges which will lead to disease. We simply can’t go on like this. Something fundamental needs to change.

It isn’t even as though the academic side of the education system – which seems to be a total obsession – is preparing kids for the modern world and the workplace. Ask any recruiter who’s been working for a few decades and they will tell you standards of even the basics like grammar have plummeted in recent years. So while this focus on learning isn’t making kids more employable, the lack of balance in the curriculum is both contributing to the activity crisis and failing to do anything to turn the tide. We’re stuck in a rut in the way we deliver education.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the knowledge we need to change things for the better.

There’s exciting research which shows we learn and retain information far more easily if it’s sandwiched with physical activity. The physiological arousal helps prime the brain for the intake of new information and the encoding of that information into memories.

Kids would actually do better at school if they spent less time studying and did more activity, and yet we just stick them behind a desk and then wonder why they grow up to be sedentary adults.

It’s time to review the way this works and make a plan to include physical activity in schools in a way that builds a powerful base for a life of self-care and enhances academic achievement.

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