Monday, October 02, 2006

PE and childhood obesity

In my essay in Liberalism: Something to Shout About I argued that politicians put too much emphasis on PE and organised games in school. In fact, children's free play and general levels of activity have far more to do with how many calories they burn.

It is hard to resisit quoting an expert who agrees with you. Here is Professor Neil Armstrong, pro-vice chancellor of Exeter University, as quoted in the Guardian this morning:
The focus of government policy, said Prof Armstrong, should be on everyday exercise, rather than school sport and regular PE lessons and diet. He said his own research had shown that school PE lessons do not necessarily produce active children.

In an exclusive interview he explained how initiatives were being rolled out with no background of hard research to support them. "We published research over 15 years ago, in the British Medical Journal in 1990. We looked at how inactive children were and how that became worse as they went through their teens. It drew a great deal of publicity at the time. I had meetings in Westminster with ministers, but it disappeared off the agenda."

Prof Armstrong also said that recent changes to school canteens would not stop children getting fatter. "Obesity is about the balance between energy intake and energy expenditure. We need to get children active as part of their normal lifestyle."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I remember being a teenager in the early 1980's and hating outdoor winter sport - freezing to the spot but being expected to run with the ball in the face of a chill wind, and fearing falling over on a hard, frozen pitch. Compulsory sport in these circumstances can ruin childrens' health forever.