“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Children's fitness levels continues to decline.

Research at Essex University has shown a significant reduction in the fitness level of children over the past decade. This is a trend that will no doubt continue unless there is a radical transformation of the way that we live; and specifically the way we raise our kids. Over the past thirty or so years a number of social changes have combined to bring about this sad decline in children's well being. First we have experienced the total denigration of any kind of physical work as the thing that kids aspire to has become sitting in front of a computer screen and writing reports, entering data or gambling with other peoples money. The other thing that young people aspire to of course is celebrity. And the possibility of achieving celebrity has become to a large extent the reason behind sports participation.
Schools used to provide a considerable proportion of our sport and physical training but this has been eroded as playing fields have been sold off, continuing expansion of the curriculum has left less time available for sport and the disenchantment and increasing workload of teachers has all but done away with after school clubs. There remains in this country a dedicated band of amateur sports coaches who's selfless work gives kids a chance to have fun, develop their potential and, in some cases, find a meaning in life. But these unsung heroes can only ever reach a minority and can only have a limited impact on the overall physical fitness of the nations children.
The main cause of a decline in fitness is to do with what is in my view something quite sinister - the theft of childhood. A combination of technological innovation providing more and more "on screen" life, virtual rather than real life,( who needs open space when you can play in cyberspace?) and parental fears (cranked up by the media) about the world beyond the front door has resulted in children leading increasingly isolated and inactive lives.
Between now and the 2012 Olympics we will no doubt see a deluge of government propaganda dedicated to justifying the huge Olympic budget in terms of increased physical fitness and sport participation. Some of this rhetoric will be well intentioned, some of it less so. Increasing children's fitness levels has little to do with eye wateringly expensive sports facilities and certainly needs no long (and costly) government think tank reports. Put very simply, it's all about getting outside and charging about with your mates. Just try not to get arrested.

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