Our Young People Need Help With Physical Literacy.
Providing the foundation for health and fitness is no longer being handled by the schools and it is having dire consequences. Here is how we can help.
"Physical literacy is the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge, and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life." Courtesy of Sport for Life.
As a society our young people are increasingly physically illiterate.
Physical activity is a lot more fun when we’re physically literate. If we want children to be active for life, ideally they will need to develop this skill at a young age.
Without it, multiple health problems ensue for years.
New rankings from the Canadian chapter of UNICEF say Canada's children have worse physical and mental health than their peers in most other countries of comparable wealth. The report shows Canada ranks 30th out of 38 countries when it comes to the well-being of children and youth under 18. Details here.
Only 39 per cent of children (aged five to 11) and youths (12 to 17) met the national physical activity guidelines of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day, according to Participaction, a non-profit group that promotes healthy living.
The pandemic has made it worse. During COVID, this same report found 4.8 per cent of children and 0.8 per cent of youths were meeting 24-hour movement behavior guidelines, down significantly from 15 per cent prior to the pandemic.
It is not better in the USA, as 1 in 5 children there are obese.
More screen time is for sure one of the reasons for lack of activity. Other reasons include less free play opportunities, lack of financial resources to participate in organized activities and lack of role modelling at home.
Years ago, playing outside was a major source of physical activity for young people. Neighborhood games of hockey, baseball, football, soccer as well as activities such as bike riding, skipping rope, hopscotch, tag, hide and seek were all common.
There was also a time when we could count on time at school dedicated to engaging schoolchildren in building up their physical skills , movement competence and confidence while setting the foundation for participation in physical activities for life.
If not daily, then at least 3x per week.
I know because I led those sessions for many years as part of my first career as a physical education specialist for youth kindergarten through grade 6. During my undergraduate study, we examined the history of Physical Education in the schools. Back in the early 1990’s daily PE was becoming a thing of the past. What was in effect as a student in the 1970’s started to disappear 20 years later.
Schools are no longer the shepherds of ensuring regular physical activity in our kids. This has evolved over 30-40 years.
The tragic part is the connection between regular physical activity and health. These consequences are having an impact for generations.
That leaves the burden to others in figuring out how to reverse this trend. Parents, coaches, community leaders this is for you.
Some solutions in building physical literacy in young people:
1. Adults must role model being active.
2. Expose children to a variety of physical activities. For parents, this means, visits to the playground, games of tag, catch and anything involving running, jumping, balancing, skipping, hitting a ball is critical. Without play time around the house, our young person is at a significant disadvantage.
3. Provide encouragement to keep moving. Combining 1 and 2 means walking wherever possible for example.
4. Be an advocate for regular activity.
5. Make time for physical activity.
· Incorporate a wide range of fundamental movement skills into warm-ups, drills and cool-downs
· Teach fundamental sport skills to all participants regardless of the event or position they might play or compete in.
· Ensure that children have access to a wide range of sports and don’t specialize in one too early. Do not limit what sports they can participate in.
The time is now to find ways to get active today.
As adults, our behavior impacts our youth more than we think.
When was the last time coaches participated with their athletes in a lead up game, or parents played catch with their kids.
While we are all stretched to the max in our time commitments, finding time for our kids is the next wave of leadership in restoring physical literacy for the next generations.
I can’t think of anything more important.