The Importance of Physical Activity for Children and Young People

When you chat with someone and think "man this person knows so much about their stuff”. This was the case when I spoke to Irfan Khawaja, a Senior Lecturer/Programme Leader for P.E and School Sport at Birmingham City University. I was over the moon when he agreed to do a guest blog for us on the topic “The Importance of Physical Activity for Children and Young People”. You can follow Irfan on twitter via @iffykhawaja

I spoke to Irfan Khawaja on Friday about one of the essential topics that apply to all of us in today’s era regardless of ability, age, gender and background. I guess you already know what I am talking about? Yes, that's right physical activity for children and young people.

Most of us already know what physical activity is and some general benefits of engaging in regular physical activity from my previous blog “The Impact of Physical Activity on Health & Well-Being”. Please feel free to have a read if you haven’t already done so! However, this time when I spoke to Irfan he just blew my mind and provided some important insights into the benefits of physical activity particularly for children and young people, but these benefits undeniably apply to all of us irrespective of our ability and age.

Irfan said that the Department of Health (2011) physical activity guidelines advise that children and young people must participate in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day. Irfan also said it’s worrying to see that only 24 % of males and 27 % of females are meeting the daily physical activity recommendations (British Heart Foundation, 2017).

Young people with a high level of physical activity are less prone to cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, excess weight, smoking and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, physical activity promotes cognitive abilities and mental health, as well as enhancing self-confidence and reducing depression. Irfan also emphasised the health risks of sedentary (sitting) and inactive lifestyles. The World Health Organisation reports physical inactivity accounting for approximately 6% of deaths globally, making it the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality.

When I asked Irfan, how we can help children and young people to be more active or at least meet the Department of Health physical activity guidelines, he advised “schools are key settings for the promotion of physical activity as they have existing curricula, infrastructure, policies and resources to promote physical activity and are also able to reach those from all backgrounds”. Furthermore, increased amounts of physical activity have consistently been linked with having positive health benefits such as improving cardiovascular health, maintaining healthy weight, improving bones, self-confidence and developing new social skills (Department of Health, 2011). There is a greater need for schools and communities to promote physical activity through physical education and sports among children and adolescents.

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