A newly published report, Start Young, Stay Active, by not-for-profit health body ukactive, calls on government, education providers and every stakeholder involved in childhood development to recognise the importance of physical activity in the home, by encouraging parents to take a more active role in their children’s physical literacy.
The report consolidates national information revealing that there is a declining standard of fitness amongst children across the UK and highlights the need to address the fact that many children start school without having developed physical literacy skills.
“We have a generation who are growing up less fit and healthy than their parents. Modern diets and the multitude of sedentary activities don’t help, but it’s the fact that children aren’t developing the basic aptitudes for exercise that is the most worrying thing for me,” said children’s activity advocate Judy Murray, endorsing the report.
“It’s vital that parents encourage and foster an environment where activity is considered important, but it’s also critical for schools, sports providers and authorities to give parents the tools they need to instigate this process. Real change could be achieved by calling on government to include physical education homework as mandatory”, she added.
Other recommendations within the report include providing parents with the resources to support their children to be active, extend the national child measurement programme to include activity levels alongside height and weight and improve the depth of data collection on children’s physical activity.
ukactive CEO David Stalker said: “This is about re-ordering priorities so that pre-school, activity led games become as second nature for parents, as supporting their children to learn to read or count. It’s simple, a child who is habitually active from a young age is more likely to be more confident, achieve academically and grow into a happy adult, free from chronic diseases, which have a detrimental impact on their personal health and on the nation’s spiralling NHS costs.”
Start Young, Stay Active calls for closer relationships between schools, parents and policymakers and increased promotion of available resources for adults to use, such as Set4Sport, a programme designed by Judy Murray to improve co-ordination, balance and agility in children.
Dr Gavin Sandercock, reader in Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex and the principal investigator for the East of England Healthy Hearts Study said: “There really is no doubt that we are facing a crisis when it comes to the activity levels of young people. Anything that can be done to improve the communication between schools, parents and policymakers and address the issue will be a positive step. We are all responsible in ensuring that every child has the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of physical activity.”