Keep'er Fit

Gary Wallace

Positivity key to children’s exercise habit

The number of children meeting the recommended amount of physical activity drops by 40 per-cent as they move through primary school.

One of my main passions is coaching kids, I love the fact you can play some part, even if it’s really small, in inspiring young children to do great things in life and sport.

This is one of the reasons I developed our CORE Kids program. Through CORE Kids our mission is to inspire one million kids over 10 years. This might be a big task but I feel I can make a difference.

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In June 2017, a survey from the Public Health England questioned 1,005 children aged five to 11 and 1,004 parents of children aged five to 11 about their attitudes to physical activity.

The number of children meeting the recommended amount of physical activity for healthy development and to maintain a healthy weight, which is 60 minutes a day, drops by 40 per-cent as they move through primary school.

So once a child enters primary school there is just under a 50 per-cent chance that they will become less and less active to a point that it will have a detrimental effect on their health

If we look at this as a nationwide statistic you will find that just 23 per-cent of boys and 20 per-cent of girls meet the national recommended level of activity.

Furthermore, one in five children start primary school overweight or obese, rising to more than a third by the time they leave.

These numbers are not made up and they are not something that should happen. They are the facts of what is happening to our younger generation and it will only get worse if we all don’t take action.

Positive experiences

This survey also identified the main barriers to physical activity and reveals that the worry of ‘not being very good’ was one of the most common, affecting 22 per-cent of children.

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This increases with age as it affects just 17 per-cent of five year olds, compared to 29 per-cent of 11 year olds.

This is something that looks way beyond the physical side of inactivity but more so the pyschological attachment our children have to physical activity.

One of my favourite sayings is from Henry Ford – ‘Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right’. If children go around saying they can’t do this or they can’t do that, which I know is still going to happen, it’s up to us, as adults, to put them in a positive environment that teaches them it’s ok to fail and reinforce positive experiences.

If we can give children as many positive experiences as possible then we increase the likelyhood that they will continue this into their adulthood and better still pass it on to the next generation.

How do we give children positive experiences of physical activity?

The first thing to do is try. Try and get them into clubs, programmes or even outside.

Let them explore new things and hopefully they will enjoy one or more of them. Another point is to let children know it’s ok to fail and show them ways to improve, by simply changing your words to ‘that was a great attempt, now how about trying it this way’ instead of ‘that was bad, try doing it again’ can make a world of difference to a child. Finally, it’s not about what you feel they should experience, it’s about what the child themselves want to experience. This can be as simple as asking them what to do.

If you have kids, work with kids or in an environment where you can influence and inspire young children to be physically active try and focus on the experience rather than the task at hand and set children up for a lifelong passion for physical activity.

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