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Image is all

THE idea of the health promoting school is facing an uphill challenge when society is moving in the opposite direction. Kids are swallowing their way through inappropriate foods and drinks to a future life of obesity and ill health. Simultaneously, they cut the amount of exercise they take. Mum drives them to school and club, they sit around watching endless cartoons and soaps and devote hours to their computer games. Activity often has to be structured, given parents' views about risks to their children.

These are some of the stories behind the statistics (page four) which show Scots and Irish youngsters falling way short of recommended minimum levels of fitness. Girls, in particular, are well behind and even more are taking up smoking.

Not before time, the physical activity task force that has been in the pipeline for several years has at last got down to business. John Beattie, its chairman, is never afraid to court controversy and can be expected to launch a crusade for health and fitness since nothing less will do.

But activities will have to change too. What attracted Big John into rugby might no longer pull in lads and girls almost certainly do not find sport a magnet. They are concerned about image, though. And that's where it should start.

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