Exercise is a must for good health, says Graham Hart. And here's a packthat aims to kick-start pupils into action
The concept of The Multi-Sport Challenge is simple. Physical education departments are encouraged to "harness young people's natural love of physical activity" by introducing 14 to 16-year-olds in their care to the scheme. Choosing distances and times that suit the ability of the participants, the students will swim, cycle and run. The "challenge" aspect is optional, but schools can enter individual and team times for set distances on the Multi-Sport website. The schools with the best times will be invited to enter regional heats and then national finals.
While winning is an incentive, taking part is the key. It is made plain that the competition is between yourself and the activity you choose. Exercise and fun are critical.
The pack contains notes and a video. Both concentrate on training methods, with personal safety, careful warming-up and all round health and fitness to the fore. But it's not aimed at preparing future world-class triathletes.
The task for teachers is to test the validity of the assertion that young people possess a natural love of physical activity. If we are not to produce generations of unfit people sitting on enormous bottoms in front of computers, then we must preach to the unconverted. The very personable and fit-looking physical training instructor from the Royal Navy featured on the video should help.
A large-scale take-up of the challenge would be a reward for the obvious effort and planning that has gone into the scheme. There are no benefits to the sponsors - the Royal Navy, the Royal Marines and the swimwear manufacturer Speedo - only to the participants. The value of the pack and the work behind it lies only in the improved health and fitness of the students taking part and the fun they have in doing so.
It may be too late to enter the challenge - the end of March is the last day for logging scores - but it is never too late to take up the ideas. Spring and summer terms will certainly be the best times to get exam-conscious students outrunning, cycling and swimming.
* Multi-SportChallenge helpline 01202 244035 Web site: www.multi-sport.org.uk