7 Aug, 2014

Is the lack of physical activity strategy for children complicit mass child neglect?

British Journal of Sport Medicine

Child activity paradoxes

A rapidly burgeoning evidence base demonstrates a link between academic performance and physical fitness (closely linked to physical activity) for children of all ages and socioeconomic groups.1–3 There is also an inverse association between physical fitness and reported violent and antisocial incidents in school.2 Physical education, games and sport for children have a demonstrable positive impact on physical health, and affective, social and cognitive function.4Furthermore, physical activity habits in childhood seem to determine, in part, adult physical activity behaviour,5 ,6 which is a key determinant of adult health.7

A recent BMJ editorial8 suggested that child health in the UK lags behind most European counterparts,9 and that despite numerous initiatives since 1999, only children from wealthier and more advantaged families seem to have benefited.10 A recent British Medical Association (BMA) report called for the need for a total prevention approach for children, but the leadership and strategy for such urgent and challenging public health measures are totally absent.11 The apparent importance and pervasiveness of physical inactivity among school children has led to a recent Lancet call for physical activity to be ‘a priority for all schools’ that requires ‘whole school’ strategies and government support12 and the Welsh government has committed ‘to make physical literacy as important a development skill as reading and writing’, yet has failed to deliver this pragmatic strategy.13 The English Secretary of State for Education recently announced a set of reforms to school curriculums for 2014, but showed no commitment to revolutionising physical activity and physical education for children. These physical activity-lacking reforms were announced with a great fanfare to the media and praised by the Prime Minister as providing the ‘very best education for their future and for our country’s future’.

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