Research into activity among young people shows that more than half of our children are not meeting the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines for health and wellbeing. And for the first time, Gloucestershire has fallen below the national average. At a time of crisis, when inequalities are widening and wellbeing should be high on our list of priorities, we need to ensure that all parents are supported to help their children to stay active.
Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey shows that within Gloucestershire, there has been a significant increase of those who are inactive (doing less than 30 minutes of activity a day) from 27% to 31%.
The recent announcement that young people are less active in Gloucestershire than a year ago is not a huge surprise, given that we are in the middle of a global pandemic. With the strain of home-schooling and the added pressures facing many parents, day-to-day life management is a challenge. However, given the clear link between physical activity and wellbeing, staying active is arguably the number one tool in the box for maintaining robust mental health.
It’s important to remember that 48% of children in Gloucestershire are still active for an average of 60 minutes a day per week. The fact that this figure hasn’t dropped further is testament to the hard work, creativity and enthusiasm of teachers, parents, coaches, school games organisers, community groups and the young people themselves.
At Active Gloucestershire, through the social movement we can move, we have seen so many examples of people, communities and organisations coming together to find creative, fun and innovative ways to stay active and reconnect with others. This has often involved thinking about physical activity in a different way, and adapting habits, often with families, at home or in local parks or green spaces that we didn’t always know about before Covid-19.
Just a few examples include:
- physical activity and wellbeing packs being delivered to communities across the county
- local community groups supporting teenagers to get active through young person-led dance classes
- creating active challenges by installing signs on lampposts in local areas, to create family challenge trails
- using the local area in new and different ways; chalking hopscotch on a pavement, or leaving messages for friends or neighbours to give them a boost as they go on their daily walk or run.
Young people from across Gloucestershire have engaged in our virtual school games challenges, while some of our partners have worked directly with young people.
A great example is the way that Play Rangers from Play Gloucestershire have used physical activity to help reconnect with young people in deprived communities as part of their playing out programme.
“The negative impact of inactivity and isolation through lockdown restrictions on mental health among children is a major concern. Taking part in active play, or even walking, helps the practical side of the brain find more balance with the emotional side. We have found that the indirect approach to emotional support – walking, talking and playing – really works. Children feel more at ease as their bodies are engaged in movement, leaving their minds free from the seriousness of the world around them.” – Ben Morris, Play Gloucestershire
Covid-19 has thrown the spotlight onto the importance of physical activity and social connection, but leadership has often been lacking – with confusing messaging over the rules around exercising. Now is the time for us to stand up and to work together as a sector – with policy makers, funders and community leaders, to build an active playing habit that will cement physical activity and sport among the highest priorities for our children when life returns to normal; ensuring that every child can build a physical activity habit for life.
We can move is a movement of people in Gloucestershire working to build a healthier and more active county. If you have an idea you want to share or would like to hear more about the movement, get in touch.