More to 'activity' than sport

6th May 2011 at 01:00

Judy Murray is right to remind us that many of our nation's health problems could be avoided if we became more physically active (TESS, 22 April). However, her focus on sport as the answer to this complex problem is unhelpful. While there are clear benefits from sport, it is not the only, or indeed the most effective, way of encouraging children and young people to be more active. Yet currently, Scotland's physical activity strategies and budgets are strongly sport-led, with the SNP's focus on PE and Scotland's Active Schools programme being delivered by Sports Scotland.

There are effective non-sport strategies to improving physical activity. Grounds for Learning is working with a range of schools that are actively challenging the zero-risk culture and creating daily adventurous outdoor play opportunities in their playgrounds that enable children to be active for up to five hours per week. Nature kindergartens establish active outdoor lifestyles in the early foundational years, forest schools have demonstrated significant increases in children's activity levels and measures to support walking and cycling to school have obvious impact.

These initiatives have demonstrated an ability to reach "non-sporty" children, establish patterns of physical activity that last a lifetime and support other important areas of child development including creativity, social skills, environmentally responsible behaviours and appreciation of the natural world. They've done all this with significantly less funding than has been invested in sports and PE.

Physical inactivity remains one of Scotland's most persistent and important challenges. It will need more than one simple target and strategy if we're to tackle it effectively.

Alastair Seaman, Grounds for Learning and chair of the Scottish Real World Learning Partnership.

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