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UK falling behind on childhood fitness, says parliamentary group

By Deven Pamben    19 Oct 2017
The Daily Mile has had a positive impact on improving physical activity among children in Scotland but the new report says the UK's devolved nations must do more to share lessons learned / Community School of Auchterarder
Activity should start from birth – and even before that
– Physical Activity In Early Childhood report

The UK trails other countries when it comes to early childhood physical activity, with no cohesive approach between the devolved nations, according to a report by a parliamentary group.

The 86-page document, titled Physical Activity In Early Childhood by an all-party parliamentary group (APPG), identified a significant lack of accredited and funded training for healthcare and education professionals, and limited research into the benefits of early years’ physical activity.

The report makes 75 recommendations, including: embedding physical activity in the early years in all relevant policies nationally, regionally and locally; establishing a national physical activity and healthy eating campaign targeted at pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and post-pregnancy stages for mother and baby; and setting up physical activity and healthy eating pilot programmes that can be rolled out nationally.

It urges the government to set up an annual summit whereby data and initiatives in the devolved governments can be studied, with the aim of coordinating UK-wide nutrition and physical activity policy.

“A growing body of research indicates that children with higher physical activity levels in the early years will maintain these patterns in later childhood, through adolescence and into adulthood," the report says.

"They will also cascade them to the next generation and by so doing, maximise opportunities for health and wellbeing across the lifespan. Activity should start from birth – and even before that.”

Referring to the government’s obesity strategy, published last year, the report says: “Missed opportunities are plentiful. No ‘Child Obesity Strategy’ succeeds without strong physical activity content and research finds that physical activity from the earliest days has positive outcomes for emotional, social, academic and cognitive growth as well as bodily health.”

The APPG also points out that children with mental or physical disabilities were being by-passed when it comes to access to physical activity and that inequalities in provision for young children from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds and diverse cultural backgrounds were not prioritised.

Projects in Finland, Australia and New Zealand are praised in the report as is 'The Daily Mile' initiative, which has had a positive impact on improving physical activity among children in Scotland. The scheme involves primary-aged children running or walking for 15 minutes every day.

Lead author of the report and former MP for Peterborough, Helen Clark, said: “We need a national campaign to stop the rot. The excellent ‘Daily Mile’ campaign pioneered in Scotland by Elaine Wyllie shows what can be done. We now need our government to pick up the physical activity gauntlet – and not to mince words – run with it.”

As reported this week, the number of obese children worldwide has risen tenfold since 1975 and if current trends continue, more youngsters will be obese than moderately or severely underweight by 2022.

Daily Mile  UK Government 
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