In England, 28 per cent of children under the age of 16 are overweight or obese. This is a high percentage that could be reduced if youngsters engaged in the recommended levels of physical activity. In fact, sixty minutes of exercise on a daily basis could help children to not only maintain a healthy weight, but improve their cardiovascular and bone health, self-confidence and social skills.
While evenings and weekends provide children with the leisure time they need to take part in sports and proactive play, schools can support pupils in keeping active and maintaining healthy lifestyles with the following top tips:
1 Encourage children to take part in group exercise during playtime. Games like ‘Stuck in the Mud’ and ‘What’s the Time, Mr Wolf?’ are ideal activities to help youngsters get active with their peers.
2 Promote vigorous activity such as running, jumping and climbing activities, combined with the use of play equipment. Hopscotch and rope skipping are also simple bone-strengthening activities that can be easily encouraged in the playground.
3 Encourage children to get active with team sports, such as netball and rounders, which influence teamwork and rule adherence.
4 Walking to and from school provides moderate aerobic activity. Inform parents of the benefits, particularly as a survey by DfT found that nearly half (44 per cent) of primary school children are driven to school, with only 2 per cent cycling.
5 Support cognitive growth, balance and hand-eye coordination by installing adventure trail components like the ‘Tyre Step’ and ‘Shimmy Ropes’, which can also be used for football and netball training sessions and other teacher-led activities.
6 Allow break-time activities where children can use equipment such as tennis balls, skipping ropes and frisbees.
7 Encourage concerted exercise by setting up an after-school mini boot camp that uses existing play facilities as a circuit.
8 Organise sponsored challenges such as an assault course or activity trail and raise money for school funds. Get parents involved for added fun!
9 Praise children when they are exercising and provide achievable challenges to give them the motivation to do it more often.
Jamie Makopa is a sports science specialist for Sovereign T: 01702 291129 W: www.sovereignplayequipment.co.uk