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'Stay active' target for primaries

A new bid is to be made to involve primary children in physical activity from an early age to create a habit that will last a lifetime.

The Scottish Sports Council, Fitness Scotland and the Health Education Board for Scotland have joined forces for the campaign and will "Start Young, Stay Active" at Murrayfield today (Friday). It will run for three years initially and have a Pounds 75,000 budget.

The move follows concerns that children are not as physically active as they were 20 years ago. Research has also shown that boys are more physically active than girls and that is another issue the new scheme will look at.

Several reasons have been put forward for influencing a child's participation in physical activity. It has been shown, for instance, that the proportion of British children between the ages of seven and 11 who are driven to school has risen from 20 per cent to 91 per cent. Safer routes to school will be promoted to encourage walking and cycling.

Children also spend more time in front of televisions and computers. "They are not any less fit but are less active," Kirsten Collins, national co-ordinator for the scheme, says. "The three partners involved are approaching it from different angles. The sports council is obviously looking at developing skills for sport, the health education board is looking at the health issues and Fitness Scotland is looking at health and physical activity."

Information packs will be distributed to schools, local authorities and governing bodies. Ms Collins says: "Ideally, we would be able to target every parent of every child. We need to target parents through schools as it is the parents who have the main influence on children. We find that if parents are active, then it is more likely their children will be active. My parents did not play a musical instrument so I am the same. They were into sport and that is where I took up my interest."

The conference at Murrayfield will raise awareness of the issues involved and discuss such factors as safer routes to and from school to encourage walking and cycling, use of the school playground for structured and unstructured play, education and training and how much instructor-led physical activity is currently being developed in Scotland.

Ms Collins says: "In three years' time, we need to be seen as relatively successful if we are to get the go-ahead for another three years. If we are successful then, from a personal point of view, I think it will be time to look at pre-school as little has been done in this country. There is plenty of good work being done in Australia and New Zealand at this age."

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