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Why Daily Physical Activity Matters in Primary Schools

January 4, 2019, 10:56 GMT+1
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Why Daily Physical Activity Matters in Primary Schools

Helping children get into the habit of being physically active on a daily basis has many health benefits, such as improving muscle and bone strength, fitness, and quality of sleep. It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight.

From an education perspective, children who are more active tend to be more engaged in school, they can focus for longer and are better placed to absorb learning.

However, children’s physical activity levels in England are alarmingly low. Just 23% of boys and 20% of girls aged 5 to 15 years currently meet the national recommended level of activity of 60 minutes each day.

At Public Health England (PHE) we recognise that everyone – families, communities, government, schools and individuals – has a role to play in creating a healthier start for our children.

This includes supporting families through Change4Life, helping to promote physical activity through early learning centres, and by inspiring schools to adopt a whole-school approach that integrates healthier lifestyles into their daily routine.

Every primary school child should aim to do at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. At least 30 minutes of this should be delivered in school by encouraging active break times, physical activity lessons, extra-curricular clubs, active lessons, or other sport and physical activity events.

It is important to embed knowledge and habits of a healthy lifestyle in children and families as early as possible. Much of this will start with the child’s family, however schools also have a major influence on children and families behaviours.

It is often thought that the work of teachers and early years practitioners stops at the school gate. But in reality, teachers and early years practitioners are uniquely placed to impact behaviours at school that can carry on at home.

They often know the family well, having daily contact with them from when a child starts out in an early years setting through to the end of primary school. This unique window of opportunity to engage families and children with positive health messages is crucial.

Inspiring schools and families to get moving with Star Wars

Our latest Train Like A Jedi initiative in partnership with Disney, uses the excitement and popularity of Star Wars to inspire children, their friends and the whole family to get active for an hour a day, all year round.

New research from PHE and Disney which looked at the factors that influence children to be more active, found that 82% of children are inspired to move more when they see their favourite characters being active.

The Opinium survey for Public Health England questioned 1,263 parents of children aged 5-11 in England and 783 children aged 5-11 in England about their attitudes to physical activity and took place in April 2018. It also found that 59% of children would be more active if exercise felt fun.

The programme helps children to learn and practise six key Jedi-inspired traits: technique, strength, stamina, speed, agility and mastery. The sequence of moves has been specially designed to encourage children to be more active throughout the school day and at home with their families.

Developed alongside teachers, the school resources include a whole-school assembly with a follow-along video starring double Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones, PE lessons, lesson starters, a school council toolkit and take-home packs to help parents keep their children active.

Pupils will learn and practise a series of Jedi-inspired moves that can be done throughout the school day, whether that’s in the classroom, assembly hall, playground, or on the way home.

Feedback from teachers has already been encouraging, especially for encouraging pupils who may not consider themselves sporty or athletic to get active.

Mark Barnsley, a deputy headteacher in Birmingham told us that the programme “encourages perseverance and determination, motivating children who may be disinterested by making links to Star Wars.”

There is a range of flexible ways to get your school involved in Train Like A Jedi and get pupils moving, take a look at the new Train Like A Jedi resources on the School Zone and you can sign up to get the latest news and resource releases.

Change4Life is a campaign run by Public Health England to help families to eat well, move more and live longer. 

Train Like A Jedi with Change4Life is a new national programme from Public Health England and Disney, using the excitement of Star Wars to inspire children to get active all year round. Search ‘Change4Life’ online to access the Train Like A Jedi resources and start your pupils’ journey to Jedi Grand Master!

Eustace de Sousa is National Lead for Children, Young People and Families at Public Health England.

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