Collaboration is essential for The Best Start in Life
|Hannah Dobbin is Policy Adviser at the Sport and Recreation Alliance and leads on areas including outdoor recreation, grassroots sport and recreation and school sport.|
Getting children active in their early years, so 0-5 years old, is crucial for healthy development and setting them up to be active teenagers and adults. This is why the Sport and Recreation Alliance supports the British Heart Foundation National Centre’s manifesto for physical activity in the early years – The Best Start in Life.
We know that physical activity can have a positive impact on young children’s health and developmental outcomes. It can not only help prevent health problems developing but also benefit those who are dealing with physical and mental problems. Active children are also more likely to be active adults.
Yet, 91% of children aged 2-4 years do not meet the Chief Medical Officers’ physical activity guidelines for their age group of three hours per day. In case you don’t know what these guidelines are for under-fives, here you go:
- Physical activity should be encouraged from birth, particularly through floor-based play and water-based activities in safe environments.
- Children of pre-school age who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (3 hours), spread throughout the day.
- All under-fives should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (being restrained or sitting) for extended periods (except time spent sleeping).
Recently, there has been a positive shift in government policy to recognising the benefits of physical activity. The Government’s new sport strategy, published last month, highlights the importance of collaboration between the departments that have a key role to ensuring children get the best start in life; namely health, education and culture, media and sport. It focuses on tackling inactivity through a broad range of activities, from traditional sports to those that get people engaged with the natural environment.
However, the sport strategy defers to the forthcoming childhood obesity strategy to tackle inactivity in the early years. And I hope to see physical activity embedded in not only it but across the full range of government strategies.
I also hope that activity is presented as fun and enjoyable, as well as being good for health. Rather than a common perception that it is a punishment for being inactive or unhealthy. A focus on wellbeing rather than specifically on obesity or other physical health conditions may also be helpful to motivate people to get active.
Although there are positive developments, more needs to be done. The best start in life sets out key areas for improvement – awareness, education, environment and health.
These are all important but a few critical components for me are:
- people need to know and understand the benefits of physical activity. They need to know what a broad range of activity is available - from traditional sports to outdoor recreation, as well as movement and dance – and how to get involved
- early years professionals should be supported to deliver high-quality physical activity provision and the prominence of physical activity should continue into primary schools and beyond
- we need to create environments that allow children to be active, either overtly or by stealth, in rural and urban areas.
The Alliance wants to see children in the early years being as active as possible. We talk about this in our response to the Government’s sport strategy and will continue to work with partners, such as the British Heart Foundation National Centre, to ensure children get the best, active start to life.
Show your support for The Best Start in Life
Join the Sport and Recreation Alliance and numerous organisation to support our manifesto calling for politicians to give children The Best Start in Life.
See how you can support the manifesto by visiting www.ssehsactive.org.uk/beststart