THE BLOG

Poor Basic Fitness Amongst School Children Highlights Wider Concern

27/04/2015 12:04 BST | Updated 23/06/2015 10:59 BST

New research has found that two-thirds of primary school children aren't reaching basic fitness levels for their age group - an awful statistic. Child obesity rates are soaring as a result and this can easily be linked to the decline of sport and exercise. With the emphasis on creating a generation of test-passers and box-tickers, exercise and sport are being neglected in schools.

Yet what is perhaps more worrying is what this means not only for children's health, but their ability to learn and, ultimately, to make the most of their potential. Exercise is proven to have numerous benefits both in the long and short term and its neglect is of great concern.

The government is currently throwing millions at teaching - with many leaving the profession due to the stress they experience in dealing with disruptive children. To be clear, disruptive children are not something new, but with the limitation of outdoor activity, it is hardly surprising that poor behaviour, caused by a lack of focus, is driving teachers out in droves. A great deal of this disruption could be reduced by reintroducing classic, old-fashioned sport to the curriculum.

The introduction of more physical activity may be a simple notion, but it has been neglected by previous educational administrations. With the amount of time which is being spent on more academic subjects, children are missing out of vital character building skills, which goes hand in hand with exercise and sport. Instead of being oriented towards test results, we should instead be improving children's ability to learn while minimising disruption. Health and fitness play a massive role in this.

A single lesson can be enough to bring benefits. Exercise pumps children full of adrenaline and endorphins, leaving them ready (and more importantly, willing) to learn. In the long term, general fitness boosts energy levels, furthering children's ability to focus over a prolonged period of time without tiring or getting bored. Fitness also has psychological benefits and has been shown to reduce students' stress.

Those who neglect sports at a young age often lack certain skills that are essential for the real world. This is why universities place such emphasis on sporting backgrounds. Through sport, you learn not only self-reliance and teamwork, but resilience, grit and determination, which are key to character development.

I see learning outside the classroom (LOTC) programmes are far more effective because teaching is top-down instruction, which children often fail to respond to. Gaining real life experience through experiential learning and adventure is substantially more beneficial. Children often need to get their hands dirty and experience these classes manually to fully immerse themselves in the topic.

They say that the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton, and we have a duty to give every child proper access to sport in order to give them a well-rounded education and create valuable contributors to our society. As it stands, we are starving our next generation of the opportunity to develop to their maximum, not to mention harming their health by reducing the opportunities to remain fit.