Avoiding obesity: helping children get active

Nearly every day there is a new note in Pip’s school bag. Whilst we do have snazzy apps and tech to keep in touch with the school, like Classlist, and GroupCall somehow the paper in the book bag method pervades. The latest in a long line of health related information has been about the NHS National Child Measurement Programme. Excitingly data is collected from all reception children unless they opt out because:

About one in five children in Reception are overweight or obese, rising to one in three in Year Six. Because the number of children being overweight has gradually increased, we have slowly become used to it. It can be difficult to tell if your child is overweight as they may look similar to other children of their age. By recording their measurements, we can get an accurate measure.

Research shows that if your child is overweight now, they are more likely to be overweight as an adult, which can lead to health problems in later life. This measurement is an important way of checking how your child is growing.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but it did surprise me that at Pip’s school, they don’t do PE classes in reception. I asked about kit at the beginning of the year and was really taken aback to find that as they are not required to do it, they don’t offer it. When I read that “as a result of extensive independent research commissioned by ESP Play and carried out by Liverpool John Moores University, the average amount of physical activity taking place during PE lessons was remarkably low” I didn’t feel so bad though. The report demonstrated that “68% of a child’s PE lesson is spent stationary”  which seems rather high but then I remembered watching Pip’s gymnastics classes and skiing classes where a proportion of the class is spent queuing for a turn.

I don’t worry about Pip specifically, because she does do ballet (which is active) and gymnastics (semi active) and scoots everywhere (full on active), and spends all playtimes hanging off monkey bars or racing around, but (playground aside) those activities are not just expensive but the logistics of them and work is enough that I can quite see why they are an easy to avoid unnecessary complication in many family’s lives.

Is there an answer? Pip’s school seems to think so – all of the HSA fundraising that we do is going towards building a new playground which will include treetop houses, raised walkways, quiet relaxing areas and all sorts of ideas to get all sorts of children active, cementing the school’s forest school status, and bringing opportunity for physical exercise and interaction to all the children. Which is why I found the time to help (wo)man the bar the other week at an event, and the inclination to make costumes and support fundraising activities – so that all of the children will get increased opportunity, not just the ones who have parents able to pay for extra classes.

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