Are children’s sports being neglected in the UK? Are schools doing enough to ensure quality a quality sports curriculum is being provided?
It’s clear from statistics that children are hugely engaged in sport in the UK, with 86% of 5–15-year-olds taking part in any sport or physical activity weekly. However due to several factors, such as the cost-of-living crisis, and the pandemic many children are having to withdraw from sports teams due to cost and fees.
But what are the key benefits of children partaking in sport?
- Improved Social Skills
- Key Skills of Leadership and Discipline
- Improved Mental Health-children feel more self-confident and less anxious
- Better Physical Health– children are less likely to suffer with obesity or cardiovascular issues
- Sense of community– the feeling of belonging to a team/club can greatly boost a child’s confidence and self-image
Mental Health and Exercise
Poor mental health is becoming an epidemic for children in the UK. Almost 1 in 5 children in the UK suffer from mental health issues and with 18-week waiting lists many children’s mental health is being severely neglected. While some children’s charities are able to provide free mental health counselling, unfortunately this can’t be done at the scale needed to tackle the crisis without adequate funding.
Children’s charities are always fundraising for children and sport, along with their other campaigns. Though many would say that this should be government funded, charities are having to fundraise for children to stay involved in sport and over come the current cost-of-living crisis.
Sport and exercise can be a great way to boost young people’s mental health with improved mood and lower rates of conditions such as depression and anxiety being prevalent in young people who take part in regular physical activity.
Not only does sport help reduce the risk of mental health conditions but it provides stronger connections with friends and the community that they are part of, making young people feel more secure in themselves. Building strong and trusting connections can be essential to young people’s development, as the ability to make friends and socialise sets them up for adult life.
Some easy exercise to boost mental health for you and your children include:
- Taking a daily 30-minute walk
- Joining a local sports team
- Walk/cycle to school or work
- Offer to take a neighbour’s dog on a walk
Why is children’s health declining in the UK?
- Lack of fresh, nutritious food in lower income settings
- Increase in sedentary activity (watching Tv or being on electronics)
- Decrease in funding to sports teams and organisations
- Lessened quality PE in schools
- The cost-of-living crisis
With food bank usage soaring to 2.17 million in 2022, more negative health impacts are taking over children’s lives. Unfortunately, there is a direct correlation between disadvantaged children using food banks and obesity. This is due to a poorer quality of food, more calorie dense items and less fresh produce.
Schools in disadvantaged areas in the UK, on average do three times less PE than private schools. This is due to a clear lack of funding and increased behavioural and avoidance issues that young people have towards exercise, for various reasons such as low self-esteem and low confidence.
Schools that encourage a wide range of enriching exercise; such as team sports, rather than high intensity activities such as cross country, do much better in encouraging young people to stay active and healthy.
Exercise can help mitigate against the negative effects of a poor diet and can reduce the risk of childhood obesity which is an ever-growing problem in the UK. Regular exercise for children has been proven to greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues and sets up children for future healthy lifestyles, ensuring that children and educated and motivated in healthy living.
Why is it Important to talk to children about healthy living?
- Educates children, allowing them to make more informed choices
- Inspires children to partake in sports and regular activity
- Gets them involved in cooking, children can learn more about balanced diets and healthy recipes
- Reduces the risk of childhood obesity or cardiovascular disease
- Improves confidence, children will have a more confident outlook on the decisions they make
How can we further encourage exercise?
The government has recently announced that girls and boys will now receive the opportunity to play the same sports in PE and have access to sports clubs that previously were seen as male dominated.
This clearly is a huge step forwards in the progression of sport for young people however there is clearly still a deficit for the opportunity in deprived areas.
Often sport team sponsorship is the only way a club can afford to run; however, this isn’t easy to secure which leaves children’s charities venturing into sponsorship to keep sport alive for young people.
Children’s charities sponsor hundreds of teams around the UK to ensure children have access to regular physical activities they otherwise wouldn’t be able to partake in. Team kits and equipment also can put a huge burden onto parents of disadvantaged families.
Often the yearly kit cost is over £100, which can leave kids feeling left out from their peers if their family isn’t able to afford, and unencouraged to play sports.
Children often respond best to positive encouragement. This can easily be applied to Sport and exercise. Talking positively to your children about sport and its benefits is an essential way to ensure they do the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity.