I have a huge passion for getting and keeping kids physically active; it’s the core of my own business and life. Our mission statement is that we want to inspire one million children to become physically active. I plan to carry this out through our programmes but mostly through education and inspiring others to help me in this quest.
This is where you come in. I believe we can all play a part in inspiring our younger generation – and it’s just not about being a parent. You might be an uncle, auntie, brother, sister, family friend or even if you have no connection to a child you can still inspire them.
The reason is simple: our kids are less active than we were as children. Government advice says children should do at least an hour of moderate intensity physical activity per day. A recent study found that just 15 per-cent of girls aged 11-15 in England manage this, along with 22 per-cent of boys.
And only one in three children of this age are taking part in any organised sport outside school. The study also showed that while activity levels among teenage girls have remained unchanged, the percentage of boys doing an hour’s daily exercise has dropped from 28 per-cent to 22 per-cent in just two years.
We have a similar culture to those living in England and I wouldn’t be surprised if these figures were the same for Northern Ireland. This isn’t helped by the open stance that our school curriculum takes on physical education.
They state that physical education (PE) is a compulsory part of the curriculum for all pupils at every Key Stage, from age four to 16.
It is up to schools to determine how much time is devoted to PE in the curriculum but departmental guidance recommends that they should provide pupils with a minimum of two hours curricular PE per week. I’ve coached in schools for over 10 years and I know that each school takes a different approach, some are very proactive while others are not so much.
It’s a bit like a national lottery if you are sending your child to school expecting that they will get enough PE throughout the week.
Schools are one area of concern, but we also have the effects of modern technology, safety in our streets, social media, mental health issues and many more which are all preventing our children from playing and exploring their environment and own natural body movements. According to a survey of parents in a sample of ten countries around the world, both developed and developing, three quarters of British children spend less time playing outside than the recommended daily period of outdoor exercise for prisoners. Children aged 12-15 spent the most time gaming at 10.7 hours a week in 2013, and 12.2 hours a week in 2017. Children between the ages of three-four spend a large amount of hours gaming for such a young age, with 5.9 hour per week being the average.
So what can we do to prevent this inactivity? Below are a few things I want you to consider to help inspire young children to be more physically active.
Monkey see monkey do
The first step is let your children see you being physically active. They will soon follow in your footsteps and before you know it they will be asking to join in. These are healthy habits that will benefit both the child and yourself.
Put down the phone
This is an area that I need to improve on as well. We say that children are stuck to a screen but so are we. I have found myself losing hours throughout a day looking at rubbish on my phone. A part of this time could be better spent inspiring children and yourself to become more active. Even use the technology to your advantage and follow a YouTube workout video or download a fitness app that that you can both follow.
Set up the right environment
Set up or take your children to the right environment, let them explore new movements and do what they can’t do when sitting watching a screen. We are blessed with the amount of parks and areas which are safe for children to explore so let’s make the most of them.
Scheduled activity time
Set a time once, twice or more a week when you and your children will become more active. It can be as simple as a ten minute walk or home-based workout or a new activity that they have never tried before. Again this will benefit everyone involved.
Join a club
Get your children to join a club or community group where they can be active but also socialise with other children their age. If you don’t have children then volunteer at a club or community group and help inspire young children – it can be one of the best feelings in the world.
Ask them what they would like to do
Just because you played football doesn’t mean that your son or daughter will enjoy doing the same. Let them try and explore as many sports and activities as possible and when they find the right ones they love support their passion and help inspire them to do something great with it.
By following these simple steps and many others you could inspire so many young children to enjoy physical active and they too can pass it onto the next generation. As well as the physical benefits they will receive, it will also help their overall well-being and in the process make them a better person. So what are you waiting for?
Go be the inspiration to greatness.