'Missed Olympic opportunity' to get children exercising

Children at a school sports day Let us achieve future success now by building in a PE curriculum that is competitive, says Andrew Franklyn-Miller

Childhood obesity remains an issue. One in three 10 and 11-year-olds in England are overweight or obese.

In this week's Scrubbing Up, Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller says the build-up to the London 2012 Olympics offers the perfect chance to encourage children to be more active - but that it is an opportunity being missed.

If our children are struggling in maths or English, we are aware because of poor performance in tests, and the child gets appropriate help.

But what about physical development, cardiovascular fitness or coordination?

Where are the assessments of "physical literacy" alongside numeracy and literacy?

How do we recognise physical limitations due to shortness of breath or low glucose causing problems, and step in before it becomes too late?

'Let it be competitive'

Society has deemed it acceptable to aspire to participate rather than achieve, to hope that vaguely defined skills might maintain fitness rather than test our children against benchmarks.

Start Quote

We need to make exercise a normal part of day-to-day life, not a weekly obligatory trip to the gym ”

End Quote Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller

Our national curriculum for PE talks of "aspirations of stringing together movements", floating in a swimming pool and "achievements" of participation and understanding.

I quite understand the reluctance to test further in school and increase the burden on teachers, but we risk neglecting the physical competence of our future generations from a fear of failure, challenge and aspiration we do not see in other aspects of education.

Surely part of the Olympic legacy should be that we give future generations the benefit of experience that our Olympians give in achievement, aspiration and success?

They all compete on a daily basis in training and in competition - even to maintain funding - and ultimately will compete for a medal at London 2012.

London 2012 - Begin your journey here

London view

Where will our next generation be without the competition and physical literacy goals as they develop?

Let us achieve future success now by building in a PE curriculum that embraces push, pull, squat, brace, rotate, accelerate and change of direction.

Let it be competitive and let us test our children against each other and identify those who need support from the network of doctors trained in sport and exercise medicine as an existing Olympic legacy.

Teachers and parents need support with training and a curriculum that builds on the lessons learnt in athlete development, and sport talent identification, not to build potential superstars but to change a lifestyle.

We need to make exercise a normal part of day-to-day life, not a weekly obligatory trip to the gym.

Surely we need to act now to help those millions otherwise destined for obesity?


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  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    26.Alan T "Obesity.. is like a runaway train".
    Do you know this? Or are you just parroting the dodgy statistics the meeja feed you? I abhor this stupid obsession with weight and size. The 'free pass' given by the fat police to the millions of people who live 'unhealthy' lifestyles but have the genetic good fortune to remain skinny shows that this 'war on obesity' is really about hate, not health.

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Surely to aspire to win as in the Olympics, means, if you don't win you are a loser?
    Give kids a choice of activity at school that keeps them interested rather than being forced to play football, where the thugs would rather kick you, than the ball.
    Even let them do fitness games on a computer console...."horses for courses".

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    45.satsig "tested to record how fast they can run a mile and the results added to their qualifications"
    Yeah, great. Let's not only heap even more social misery onto the already demonised 'obese' (since when did being thin become of such overriding importance?) but further punish all who prefer academia, creativity and use of their grey matter to chasing a pig's bladder round a field.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Sadly the Olympics is having just the opposite effect to the "sporting legacy" we were promised. Nationwide many sports clubs are finding sponsors withdrawing support for junior events because they are saving budget to spend on Olympic projects. Also the lottery is spending huge sums on hopeless British Olympic teams for sports like handball when this cash could have helped the grassroots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    My husband's school thought he was rubbish at sport - despite him whilst there getting teacher qualifications in swimming and fencing... and narrowly missing out on selection for the Modern Pentathlon team just after he left... but he didn't - or wouldn't - play rugby or football or tennis so in their eyes he wasn't 'good at sport'!

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    For non-sporty kids (these are the kids more at risk and I believe in focus here), exercise should be encouraged alongside nutritional education. Exercise in school focusses on sport, kicking a ball, swinging a racket. Allow exercise professionals and coaches to get involved and teach kids that exercise doesnt have to be sport and make exercise habitual, disassociating exercise with sport!

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Another BBC 'fatty bash', another HYS full of spite, venom and lazy stereotypes. I'm geniunely astonished that there are so many people out there who can tell so much about a person's personality, education level, human worth and value to society simply by the size of their body. It shows how 'liberals' can be just as intolerant of those they dislike as the Right. Shame on you; should know better.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Dr_Ads wrote
    "I haven't had the pleasure of living in South London for a few years. But I'd be surprised if they have built on Blackheath, Clapham Common, Wandsworth Common, Wimbledon Common, Dulwich Park, Richmond Park, Greenwich Park"
    I was referring to school sports grounds.
    And yes, Greenwich Park is being built upon - for Olympic horse jumping - that well known accessible sport.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    What is wrong with competition. Nature is a competition, life is a competition; learn to live with this basic fact. Accept failure as well or you will never know success; you will have nothing to compare it too. If we all stopped whining like over protective social workers on a "happy day", our kids might get proper leadership.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I hated PE at school because I wasn't one of the popular crowd, so was always picked last and ridiculed in team sports. I was very fortunate, however, in that a world ranked kickboxer lived in my town, and he agreed to come in and take kickboxing classes in PE, which I loved. Exercise should be fun, not a chore, and trying to force kids of different abilities to play boring team games is futile.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Mugan@ 58 "Actually there's a similar hysteria over obesity in Aus / NZ. Japan, which has a very homogenous society and very few 'obese' has introduced LAWS against being over a certain size. In Africa, the WHO claims that fat is a bigger issue than hunger. 'Obesity' is a global con trick driven by the diet / medical industry; govts love it because it gives them an excuse to tax, ban and nanny.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    To be honest video games are way too cool nowadays, and in a choice between them and exercising i think i know which i would choose =D

    Besides 'Games' and PE at secondary school was just something to be feared, we had harsh teachers and no freedom to choose what we wanted to do. Sure this was ok for some people, but not everybody likes being pushed around in freezing rain

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    It's not just the children that are fat; their parents often are too. Getting fit is long term gratification, not instant. Trash TV is instant, as are doughnuts. And don't we all deserve it all and deserve it now? If sports curricula stopped talking platitudes and rubish and trying to preach a shiney utopia; our children might be less confused.

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    If anything, it was school PE lessons that actually put me off exercising. They weren't focused on general fitness but were based around competitive team sports. I wasn't overweight, but I'm clumsy, and was regularly humiliated in PE. It's really only now that I've started to exercise, in my mid-30s - and I still wouldn't ever do it in front of other people, all because school PE was so ghastly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    They should make the fat kids wear hats with a cake hanging on a stick in front of them, and release them out into the stadium. Fat children, chasing cakes they'll never reach, dressed in the Olympic uniform, for the entertainment of others.

    Do it on a rainy day, and you'll have the most accurate representation of Britain anyone could ever dream of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    It is less about the sports available and more about the culture towards exercise in the UK. We say that we MUST do activity like its a chore, but in countries with low obesity rates and high activity levels, like Australia and New Zealand, activity is something that you do as much as you learn and work. This increases the numbers of sports played and improve health and participation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    Another BBC 'Doctors demand' story, this time that kids, who come in all shapes, sizes, interests and personalities be hammered into a one-size-fits-all round hole by the fat panic-mongers who have hugely inflated the numbers of so-called 'obese' kids through overly-strict definitions and relince on the BMI. How about we just leave them alone to grow into their bodies and their identities?

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    If we can put these fat lazy kids through their paces then the better. The number of fat women in the UK is very worrying

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    Project HE:RO - Health Engagement: Real Outcomes is an innovative concept that is answering some of the issues raised by Dr Andrew Franklyn-Miller here. Although aimed at reducing inactivity and obesity levels amongst children it has been praised by headteachers for improving attendance, attainment and behaviour. One OFSTED report says that its Health Mentors are improving literacy and numeracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    The Olympic industry may produce a limited number of winners, but what they really excel at is producing losers and long term debilitating injuries.

    Rather than using the Olympics to encourage healthy exercise, perhaps we should be promoting and resourcing the 'real' and 'personal' benefits of exercise in itself ... not as a means to avoid real work, but as a means to remain healthy.


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