In our latest Telegraph Voices feature we asked contributors – ‘Why is it important that we encourage children in Sheffield to lead an active lifestyle?’
Martin Foster – footballer and dad-of-three
The earliest memories I have as a child involve sport and being active in some way or another, whether it was playing football and cricket with my dad at our local park or running around playing tiggy and British bulldog with my mates at infant school and primary school. I still remember being totally exhausted at times playing out after school and at weekends until it was dark and being so sweaty and muddy my mum would go bonkers, but it didn’t stop me.
I was very lucky the area I was from and the sports teachers we had at those schools they were brilliant always encouraging us to play sports and to be active. As a child I don’t think you really see benefits of keeping an active lifestyle apart from the obvious one, winning! Fast forward 30 years and I’m now a father of three – Olivia 14, Max 11 and Lexi, eight.
Since school I was so fortunate to enjoy 23 years playing football as a career and coaching afterwards, only when I became older in my mid twenties did I really start to see all the other benefits that sport and being active can have. I think we all have to encourage children to be more active, parents, grandparents, family friends and school teachers we have to emphasize the benefits as early as possible and as frequently as possible.
Physical activity stimulates growth, stronger muscles and bones, it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels, it leads to overall improved health mentally and physically and it can become a life long habit which is really the aim. For those families who really struggle with getting their children active speak to them, tell them the benefits, introduce them to as many activities and sports as you can.
Hopefully they love one and even better take to a few. I know how hard it can be, I have a daily struggle with my lad to get him off the computer. He’s now took to boxing after trying basketball, football, running, badminton, dodge ball – you name we’ve tried it but it’s slowly sinking in as he’s seeing his body change and he has a better understanding of healthy eating.
Sometimes the activities or sports can be a little pricey especially if there’s more than one child, but you can do other things – go to the park or in our case we have a family dog called Lucy a little Staffordshire terrier, we walk her through Grenoside Woods and Bluebell Woods. I try to encourage making it a family affair by getting the kids out into the fresh air, they join me maybe twice a week on mine and Lucy’s daily walks.
I’d still like to see more being done at schools as department recommendations to them is a minimum of two hours curricular per week at secondary schools some don’t even offer PE as a GCSE subject.
Let’s finish on a positive. Leading an active lifestyle has loads and loads of benefits – it can improve your mood, help with reducing depression, stress and anxieties, it will improve concentration levels at school and help create friendships that can last a life time.
Hannah Corne – Executive Director, Mini Mermaid Running Club UK
Recently, my seven-year-old daughter took part in a BMX bike competition. Halfway through the event, she had a proper wipe out, the kind that you think ‘oof, that had to hurt.’ After a few tears, and a hug, she decided to keep going and finished with a vengeance.
What didn’t happen that day – one, she didn’t win the competition and two, she didn’t place in the competition.
What did happen that day – one, she got back on the bike when she had a good excuse not to, two, she showed herself just how strong and resilient she is and three, she had tons of fun.
I’m the first in line when discussing the importance of children being physically active. My hope, though, is we re-frame the conversation, making it less about being ‘fit’ and more about being ‘well.’ Science shows that our brains change following a 20-minute walk, with chemicals released that create a sense of euphoria. This is complemented by more research showing the connectivity among physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
In our programme, Mini Mermaid Running Club, an eight-week curriculum for girls age seven-11, girls explore various forms of activity, as well as mindful practices, which celebrate mind, heart and body strength. In the end, we’ve haven’t created ‘RUNNERS!’
Instead, we’ve helped develop young girls who show increased self-esteem, confidence and well-being and more comfort in moving their bodies. Through physical activity, we can open doors to greater mental and emotional well-being. For young children navigating a complex world full of pressures, ranging from social media and exams, physical activity provides a tool with which to take on the challenges they face.
Our job? We need to make it fun. Last week, Sport England and Youth Sport Trust came out with their second wave of analysis from their Active and Young People study. The findings ranked ‘enjoyment’ as the most critical aspect of children being active. We shouldn’t dictate how a child is active, but rather, create safe spaces for them to explore what makes them tick. One child might love to dance, another climb, while another might love splashing around in a pool. Once they find joy in movement, they’ll have a greater chance at overall well-being.
Adam Fuller – Sports Development Manager and School Games Organiser, Arches School Sport Partnership
With over one in three pupils on average leaving primary school at the age of 11 overweight or obese, it is imperative to the health of the nation, that children and families are educated on the benefits of an active lifestyle.
The physical and mental health benefits for children and young people taking part in regular physical activity are phenomenal and begs the question as to why parents, schools, families, organisations and national policies are not doing more to address the reduction in physical activity in recent years.
The Sport England Active Lives Children and Young People Survey shows that around 3 million children (43.3 per cent) lead active lives. However of that group, only 1.2 million (17.5 per cent) are meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of more than 60 minutes of activity a day, every day of the week.
Figures around the activity levels of children and young people show that areas of deprivation lead to a much higher chance of being inactive, being over and underweight, as well as a large gap between boys and girls which increases as young people get older and move in to Secondary School.
Physical health and wellbeing benefits are not the only reason children and young people should be active on a daily basis. Physical activity and sport can have a hugely positive impact on a young person’s life allowing them to build essential skills such as; building relationships, overcoming fears, enhancing resilience, teamwork and communication as well as developing creativity.
These are all skills that employers will look for as young people turn to look for employment. Physical activity develops concentration and memory which is why an active school environment directly relates to better behaviour and improved academic results.
Sheffield as a city involves a large number of partners who are working directly together to try and address issues and barriers to taking part in physical activity and to promote the benefits for children and young people becoming more active. There is a large amount of work taking place currently including; adding more physical activity in to the school day, supporting active travel (to and from school) and active homework initiatives.
In addition a child is 50% more likely to be active if they have an active parent which is why it is essential that families take time to be active together within the community as well as at home. Sheffield offers so many fantastic opportunities to do this locally and many of these are free of charge to families and schools, so there really is no excuse for Sheffield children to be inactive.
Helen Thorneloe – Co-founder of Net4All SCNC
‘Why is it important that we encourage children in Sheffield to lead an active lifestyle?' The million-dollar question with such a straightforward answer: for them to be happy and healthy throughout their lives!
Keeping childrens’ internal organs in good working order leads to efficiency in the body and goes a long way to stem the obesity epidemic. The fact that exercise helps to stimulate endorphins shows the benefits to emotional wellbeing too. Endorphins are the body’s natural feel good chemicals, and when they are released through exercise, your mood is boosted naturally.
All children, regardless of physical or intellectual ability will benefit from leading an active lifestyle. Schools provide a structured supportive PE programme to educate in this area but additional play outside the classroom or playing field will have a huge impact on their development. Instilling a regular tendency of taking part in extra-curricular activities at an early age will help towards a learned positive outlook so creating a sporting habit for life.
We have started a new exciting group providing the opportunity for inclusive netball at Sheffield Concord Netball Club, ‘Net4All’. The aim of this development is to engage girls aged 11-18 in ParaNetball who have special educational needs such as autism or any other intellectual impairment.
We want them to feel inspired and empowered to take part in team sport, learn confidence as well as getting healthy and active through a safe and supportive environment. Although team sports can provide fun-filled memories that can last your child a lifetime, they are also a teaching tool for the development of important social skills.
Do contact through our website for more information so that we can welcome your daughter to the new section of our club.
David Bly – Sports Programme and Engagement Manager, SIV
For many, Easter can be a time to sit back, relax and, in a lot of cases, dig into sweet snacks.
Now, I for one wouldn’t discourage a bit of relaxation – after all, the Easter break is an important one and offers crucial bit of respite after an intense start to the year. However, there are alternatives out there to make sure you don’t indulge too much this spring, and include a bit of exercise in your holiday plans.
According to a survey by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) earlier this year, at the time of writing half the UK has already consumed one Easter-related treat. Almost a quarter of the population has consumed a full-size Easter egg already, and 77 per cent of those surveyed would prefer retailers to stop marketing Easter treats so early.
All this points to a huge opportunity during Easter to make lifestyle changes and introduce a bit of (fun-filled!) physical activity into any holiday routine.
NHS guidelines state that kids (aged five or under) should get around 180 minutes of physical activity – including light activity such as standing up and walking around – every day.
Children aged between five and 18 years old should get around 60 minutes every day – something which can seem hard during the holidays, when the temptation can be to just kick back and relax.Luckily, in Sheffield we’re blessed with places to go to get out and about, with the Peak District on our doorstep and parks dotted all across the city.
If you’re on a tight schedule or juggling childcare, however, it’s understandable if you’d struggle to get out for a nice daytime family stroll – which is where indoor activities can come in.
Facilities such as iceSheffield and Ponds Forge offer great family deals on swimming and ice skating during the school holidays – with all-inclusive, cut-price deals available for £10 and £15 respectively, and timetables to suit a busy schedule.
That’s not restrictive, either – if you’re after something a bit more adventurous then there’s always Altitude (near iceSheffield in Attercliffe) or Inflatable Planet at Concord Sports Centre.
The possibilities are endless in this great city, so make sure you check out the multitude of opportunities online at www.siv.org.uk.