Active pupils need active playgrounds

29th May 2009 at 01:00

The challenges of delivering the Scottish Government's commitment to two hours of weekly PE for each child have highlighted the importance of providing environments in school grounds that encourage physical activity.

The recent review of Scotland's physical activity strategy, Let's Make Scotland More Active, concluded that the best way to get the nation more active is not through formal sport but through "the creation and provision of environments that encourage and support physical activity".

Researchers in a European study have found that children are only moderately or vigorously active for an average of 18 per cent of a typical PE lesson. In contrast, children are surprisingly active in break times, according to a 2004 government report, with primary children burning calories at around two thirds of the rate of a formal PE class.

Pupils spend up to an hour a day in their school grounds, so there is huge potential to enhance the level of activity that takes place. Our survey of schools which improved their outdoor space revealed that 85 per cent had seen an increase in healthy, active play.

Sadly, there are still many school grounds in Scotland that do little or nothing to promote outdoor activity and the potential of these spaces to help improve physical health is lost. If we want Scotland's children to be more active, providing them with active playgrounds needs to be just as much a priority as delivering two hours of PE lessons.

Alastair Seaman, programme manager, Grounds for Learning, Alloa.

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