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Stuck to the sofa

THE World Cup is gripping the nation - from the comfort of the sofa. And that is one of the problems. In the era of armchair punditry, activity and sport are to be watched rather than taken part in. Scotland, like many countries in the western world, is experiencing a sharp decline in physical activity and fitness, as this week's report by the Physical Activity Task Force emphasises.

Everyone agrees schools are the bedrock of change. Catch them young and you might change attitudes in teenage years when the rot sets in. But more than a decade of concern on activity and extracurricular sport has so far failed to make significant inroads into the lifestyles of young people. Counter trends in leisure and youth culture are probably stronger than the raft of piecemeal initiatives, as are counter forces in schools, where the focus on attainment has been largely narrowly interpreted as academic results.

Practice is still some way short. Primary school physical education is patchy at best, less than one hour a week in probably the majority of schools. That would be an excellent base from which to launch a fresh campaign on the health and fitness of the nation.

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