Start Active – Stay Active

Having spent the last two weeks blissfully on holiday – I returned to the usual full in-box. Amongst everything else I have made a new ‘to read’ file of all the recent reports and reviews that have been sent to do with early years health and well being. Will post up links to some of these reports as I read through them.

The first was highlighted to me by Laura Hamilton senior health promotion specialist for physical activity – Start Active Stay Active It is a joint report by the UK’s four chief medical officers outlining the benefits of physical activity. Luckliy I had had a very physically active holiday so I was feeling quite virtuous as I dipped in and out of the report (as had my 11 year old daughter who is at home nursing a blister after a trip up Ben Lawers yesterday).

I note that the guidlines for physical activity for children have changed and that they have been given a specific early years slant for the first time. The headline summary is below but there are some very useful short guidance documents for different age stages  on the Depatment of health website. The guidlines on the DOH website splits the under 5 age group into walking and not walking – which seems to be very helpful.

EARLY YEARS (under 5s)
1. Physical activity should be encouraged from birth, particularly through floor-based play and water-based activities in safe environments.
2. Children of pre-school age who are capable of walking unaided should be physically active daily for at least 180 minutes (3 hours), spread throughout the day.
3.  All under 5s should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (being restrained or sitting) for extended periods (except time spent sleeping).

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE (5–18 years)
1.  All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.
2. Vigorous intensity activities, including those that strengthen muscle and bone, should be incorporated at least three days a week.
3.  All children and young people should minimise the amount of time spent being sedentary (sitting) for extended periods.

The executive sumary of the report notes that the evidence for the impact of physical activity on health and well being is conclusive, but is evidence enough to change policy on transport – fast food outlets – urban planning – school timetables etc etc.

In conclusion, we know enough now to act on physical activity. The evidence for action is compelling, and we have reached a unique UK-wide consensus on the amount and type of physical activity that is needed to benefit health.