According to the Finnish government, children should spend at least three hours a day performing physical activities.
Parents in the country have been advised to actively encourage their children to pursue hobbies and interests that require physical exertion. Children under the age of eight are the main target in the new scheme.
Anneli Rautiainen, head of curriculum development with the Finnish National Board of Education, told the BBC that schools would now be experimenting with new ways of teaching. She said “In our new curriculum, we are looking at two to three hours a week of physical education and more outdoor activities. But we are also looking at non-traditional ways of teaching.”
The new initiatives include removing desks and chairs from some classrooms, so that children are not sitting as while learning regular subjects.
A report published last month by the child and family services change programme revealed that young people in Finland were in favour of doing more physical activity in schools. Those asked suggested using the school gym during breaks and increasing the amount of after school club activities.
What are the current recommendations?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) currently suggests that children and young teenagers aged between 5 and 17 should perform at least an hour of moderate physical exercise a day. However, the public health body also mentions that more than an hour will provide additional health benefits, including later in life.
Why are Finnish children so fit?
Finland’s obsession with health dates back to the 1970s, when it had the highest rate of deaths from heart-related issues in the world. This was largely due to a thriving dairy sector, which played a large part in the Finnish diet. In an effort to tackle the issue from a young age, children were weighed on an annual basis. The results were then recorded in end-of-year reports.
This led to the Finnish National Nutrition Council, a government body that issues dietary guidelines, eventually introducing a directive that schools should not only provide free lunches, but that the food should be nutritional.
Why is more exercise needed?
According to the WHO, Finland’s population is still among the healthiest, but economic, social and cultural developments through globalisation are having a detrimental impact. As in many countries, health inequalities are on the rise in Finland.
Is Finland ahead of the game?
Finland introduced child health clinics way back in the 1940s, a pioneering move that was later introduced in other nations. Their primary focus at the time was on physical development and nutrition, early identification of abnormal conditions or disease and immunization. With this latest focus on physical activity among schoolchildren, Finland remains a leading nation when it comes to the health of its young citizens.