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PE is the key to a fitter nation

PRIMARY pupils should be the target of physical education programmes if sport is to contribute to regenerating urban communities, a research study has concluded. Sports development officers in 10 social inclusion projects told researchers it was too late to counter anti-activity lifestyles when people were in their 40s.

The Scottish Executive-backed study, carried out by the Centre for Leisure Research at Edinburgh University, states: "Traditional, facility-based, approaches may not be appropriate to address many of the issues and there is a need to adopt a need-based, outreach approach, using local facilities and recruiting local staff."

Researchers Fred Coalter, Mary Allison and John Taylor found that among the least active groups promoting a healthy lifestyle may be a more useful strategy than only offering traditional sports.

"The frequency of activity required to achieve and sustain physical health benefits is difficult for many to achieve in sport. The greatest gains from actvity programmes often relate to psychological health and increased feelings of well-being," they state.

Key factors in any successful programmes are local facilities, the importance of friendship groups and an emphasis on the intrinsic value of activity.

The study found inconclusive evidence about the effects of physical activity on academic performance, although it acknowledges that sport can be used to enthuse underachieving pupils. The involvement of football clubs may be beneficial if the quality of educational development can be guaranteed.

The researchers say there is also little evidence on the potential of sport to counter unemployment. "Although training opportunities for basic sports leadership awards contribute to the development of self-esteem and self-confidence, without additional qualifications their vocational value is limited," they state.

Details about The Role of Sport in Regenerating Deprived Urban Areas are available on

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