Physical activity is a broad term to describe movement of the body that uses energy. Unless otherwise stated, taking part in Sport and physical activity is defined as “All forms of physical activities which, through casual or organised participation, aim at expressing or improving physical fitness and mental well-being, forming social relationships or obtaining results in competition at all levels. ” Physical inactivity is regarded a serious, nationwide problem.
Its extent poses as a public health challenge for reducing the national burden of unnecessary illness and premature death. Starting activity from an early age and throughout childhood helps an important input to healthy growth and development. There is strong and growing evidence that regular physical activity reduces the risk of suffering from various common disorders. Evidence shows regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
There are also many psychosocial aspects of physical activity, such as having the opportunity for social interaction and support (Hughes, Casal, Leon 1986), experiencing increased feelings of self-efficacy (Simons et al. 1985; Hughes, Casal, Leon 1986), and experiencing relief from daily stressors (Bahrke and Morgan 1978), may help improve mental health status in some people. http://www. cdc. gov/nccdphp/sgr/pdf/chap4. pdf If a child has positive experiences with physical activity at a young age it may help set the foundations for being regularly active throughout life.
This would mean not just about teaching children how to play sports, there is the wider proposal in terms of their lives, like giving them aspirations, something to aim for and how they can achieve their goals. Parents and carers are important social influencers upon children and young peoples’ lifestyle choices. Hendry, Shucksmith, Love and Glendinning (1993, pg. 59) state that “Two major elements appear to be dirctly related to attraction towards and avoidance of sport participation: parents as role models and parental encouragement, expectations and support”.
Physical activity promotion is a high component of many government policy statements and commitments in the UK. These include those produced by the Department of Health and other departments such as the Department or Transport, the Department of Culture. The Department of Health’s ‘Saving Lives: Our Healthier Nation’ is an action plan for tackling poor health and improving the health of everyone in England. The Government has recognised the negative economic and social consequences of physical inactivity.
In December 2002, the Government published ‘Game Plan’, a strategy for delivering its sport and physical activity objectives. Game Plan’ set a national agenda: to increase and widen the base of participation in sport, to target success in international sport and to promote any reform necessary for the strategy to be delivered. ‘Game Plan’ sets the target of 70% of the population to be reasonably active 5 x 30 minutes per week by 2020. (http://www. sportengland. org/national-framework-for-sport. pdf) The White Paper also agrees that physical activity is a key aid to good health and an important factor in preventing heart disease, stroke and other chronic disease.
This document is the 2004 Government Public Health White Paper published by the department of health. It forms the foundation  of public health policy. The White Paper sets out the key principles for supporting the public to make healthier lifestylechoices. Physical activity is one of six priorities identified in the white paper and actions to promote physical activity are xamined in several chapters; (‘Health in the consumer society’, ‘Children and young people, ‘Local communities leading for health’, ‘Work and health’, and ‘Health promoting NHS’). Everybody knows that Government and individuals alone cannot make progress on healthier choices. Progress depends on effective partnerships across communities, including local government, the NHS, business, advertisers, retailers, the voluntary sector, communities, and the media.
The NHS Plan was produced and set out plans for investment in and reform of the NHS. It included the commitment to develop ‘local action to tackle obesity and physical activity, informed by advice from the Health Development Agency on what works’ (Department of Health,2001 The effectiveness of public health interventions for increasing physical activity among adults: a review of reviews) The Department of Culture media and sport (DCMS) encourages greater sport participation.
Its strategy ‘A Sporting Future for All’ recognises sport as a “powerful tool for social, educational and physical wellbeing”. Published in 2000, this document sets out New Labour’s vision for sport including; sport in education, sport in the community, sporting excellence and the modernisation of sporting organisations. The Department for Transport, Local Government and Regions DTLR, formerly the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, DETR, aims to make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle, therefore reducing the amount of cars.
The Department of Culture Media and Sport Department for Education and Skills (DfES, formerly the Department for Education and Employment, DfEE) launched a joint ‘National Healthy Schools Standard’ in 1999 with DH which consists of ten central themes; physical activity is one of these. Source: adapted from NAO, Tackling Obesity in England (Health benefits of physical activity,2001) One of the government main concerns and well known agendas is to control the raising levels of child obesity.
Rates of obesity have dramatically increased in England over the last decade. If no action is taken, one-in-five children aged 2-15 in England will be obese by 2010. (Obesity guidance for healthy schools coordinators and their partners) There is a need for the departments to involve other partners at national and local levels to help develop and implement solid strategies for prevention, which include adults as well as young people. At national levels, this is taking place already, and departments should develop joint objectives and performance targets relating o aspects of physical activity and diet to ensure that this progress is combined. At the local level, health authorities are well located to start these activities by developing Health. They could provide more Improvement Programmes that involve a wide range of other partners in schemes to increase cycling, walking and physical recreation and to improve diet, such as increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, and the knowledge for a healthy diet.
Chief Medical Officer Sir Liam Donaldson said: ‘Higher levels of physical activity among children and young people, together with much healthier eating patterns, are the key to averting the potential catastrophic effects of the obesity epidemic which is beginning to emerge. ‘ (Stars back school sports bid to fight obesity 2004) There is a substantial amount of cross-department work in the areas that are central to addressing the rising levels of obesity. Much of this is targeted at schoolchildren.
This addresses a section of the population for which obesity is becoming an increasing problem. The NHS aims to halt the rise in obesity among children in the region by 2010. National and regional activities and programmes are already in place to help tackle obesity such as the ‘five a day scheme’, regulation on food promotion and advertising to children, national weight loss guidance and physical activity programmes and work with the food industry on portion size and labelling. Other Government departments have an influence through school education and the promotion of healthy eating.
Many schools now provide a healthy eating plan, abolishing foods such as chocolate and crisps on sale in the canteen. The focus of such strategies should be to make it easier for the public to make healthy choices. Such strategies require funding for implementation, but should ultimately lead to a reduction in the costs to the NHS from obesity related ill health. (http://www. iotf. org/childhood/) Schools are seen as being in the front line in the battle against what has been called “the biggest public health threat of the 21st century” – obesity. (http://news. bbc. co. k/1/hi/education/3751305. stm) The potential of Physical Education to help contribute to health enhancing behaviour has been long acknowledged. Schools have a key role and are in a significant position in helping pupils to reach the recommended daily level of physical activity, both by providing them with suitable activity opportunities and also by helping them to acquire the skills, understanding and confidence to pursue activity outside of the school. PE and school sport is an entitlement for all pupils whatever their own particular needs, preference or circumstance.
The national curriculum for PE is not prescriptive and provides flexibility that schools can exercise when providing activities so that the needs of all pupils can be catered for. A key role of physical education is to ‘maintain, and if possible improve the health and physique of the children’ (Issues in Physical Education 2000) Three government departments – DH, DfEE (now DfES) and DETR (now DTLR) have set up the School Travel Advisory Group in 1998 as a forum for debate and coordination.
They published guidance for local authorities on building a safe environment to encourage more children to walk or cycle to school. To help the promotion of sport and physical activity in schools the National Healthy Schools Target developed by DH/DfEE sets an ‘expectation’ that pupils should have at least 2 hours physical activity each week. A recent poll that Sport England undertook shows that only 1 in 5 primary schools currently meet the 2 hours target.
The national PE, School Sport and Club Links strategy was launched by the Prime Minister in October 2002. Its overall objective is to enhance the take-up of sporting opportunities by 5 to 16-year-olds. The PESSCL strategy has set targets to increase the amount of Physical Education and sport young people do. “The ambitious target is to increase the percentage of schoolchildren who spend a minimum of two hours a week on high-quality PE and school sport within and beyond the curriculum to 75 per cent by 2006 and 85 per cent by 2008. (childhood obesity 2003) It is also trying to bridge the gaps between school and community sport, opening up schools out of hours to provide additional sports opportunities for all children. A recent campaign that Gordon Brown has proposed is that he wants all school children to get the chance to do five hours of sport a week. Currently children under 16 are required to do two hours a week within the national curriculum.
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