Physical benefits: activities in schools

Sue Wilkinson, strategic lead at the Association for Physical Education, extols the benefits of offering physical activities in schools.

A key aim of the Association for Physical Education is to raise people’s awareness of the contribution that physical education can make to the health and wellbeing of the general public.
We hear a great deal of discussion about the differences between physical education, school sport and physical activity. In our opinion, they are all inextricably linked.
Last October, we published a Health Position paper. This said that very young children should have at least 1,000 hours of active floor time to develop their core muscles and develop gross and fine motor skills. Without these skills they might not be able to hold their pens correctly when writing at school later on, for example.
Health and wellbeing must not be reduced to questions about how much a person weighs, or what shape or size they are. The topic must include physical, psychological and social aspects of health – all of which contribute to people’s quality of life.
Children and young people aged from five need high-quality physical education, which is associated with
improved cardiovascular health and bone health as well as:

  • Reduced body fat and maintaining a healthy weight
  • Improved cardio-respiratory fitness and stronger muscles
  • Improved self-confidence and social skills
  • Fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
If maintained into adulthood, regular physical activity cuts risk factors for long-term conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers. High-quality physical education also ensures that children learn and develop core movement skills. 
These, in turn, make it more likely that they will engage in physical activities in later life.  
From a health perspective, having physical education embedded in the school curriculum ensures that children appreciate the many benefits (physical, psychological and social) of a healthy, active lifestyle.
They will also understand about ‘energy balance’ and the need to increase physical activity in daily living to assist with ‘healthy’ weight management.
Sue Wilkinson strategic lead, Association for Physical Education

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