Early Year & Physical Activity

A new resource just came out from the British Heart Foundation.  The document has lots of web links to useful resources and programme materials that can be downloaded.

It can be downloaded directly from the site, or it can be ordered in hard copy (for a small donation) from the BHF site as below.


The guide is for:

 Early years settings who provide care to children from birth up to the age of five. It can be used by all regulated providers, irrespective of the time that children spend in their care, including:

– local authority maintained nursery schools

– private, voluntary and independent nurseries

– nursery classes within primary schools

– pre-schools

– children’s centres

– registered childminders and nannies

– other early years providers such as playgroups and baby and toddler groups.


New physical activity information leaflets for parents of under fives

The British heart Foundation has produced two new leaflets based on the recently developed national physical activity guidelines for under fives. The leaflets one for babies not yet walking and the other for children who are walking  are availble to download from here http://www.bhfactive.org.uk/young-people-resources-and-publications-item/294/index.html


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).

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.

Bugs, Boats and Obesity

Busy BugsThe East Lothian Physical Activity & Health Partnership hosted a meeting on promoting physical activity in the early years on 2nd March. The positive effects of moderate physical activity on all aspects of health and well being in all age groups are clear from research.

The meeting was led off with an informal presentation by Caroline from the Active School team who spoke about her work rolling out the Busy Bugs programme in East Lothian, as well as other programmes such as Basic Moves and Kickstart.

“Busy Bugs/Top Tots helps to introduce and sustain play and physical activity as part of a daily routine for children aged two to three-and-a-half years. The programme provides new ways to keep children active at nursery and at home, through play, movement to music, basic moves and games, with a focus on enjoyment and fun! The course covers programme planning, content and management, lesson plans, resources and the evaluation and review process. It is ideal for parents, nursery, playgroup workers and anyone else working with this pre-five age group.”

The Active School Teams approach is to train people – staff and community members – to deliver these programmes, and then to provide backup and support for these staff. They have found that support is needed especially until the trainees get some experience of delivering the programmes for children under their belts. Busy Bugs has been particularly popular with nursery staff, both local authority and private sector. A gap, discussed at the meeting, has been links to communities. A positive outcome from the meeting was a connection being made with the community development service that may help with this. There is also a need to develop a train the trainers package to help disseminate Busy Bugs and other programmes further than is possible within the resources of the Active Schools team. The teams vision is that this programme becomes a part of mainstream early years provision with back up and quality assurance provided by themselves. Hence, the Active schools team would train the trainers for school, nurseries and community settings who would then train staff to deliver the programmes in the different settings.

The meeting also heard about dance initiatives for this age group, and the provision of outdoor play in the form of play parks and outdoor areas of nurseries and infant schools.  It was clear that a lot of high quality work is going on in East Lothian to promote physical activity for this age group.

The issue of obesogenic environments was also touched upon as an explanation of why children (and adults) seem to be becoming more overweight despite such excellent work taking place in schools and nurseries. Basically an obesogenic environment is one in which it is easy to access lots of calorie dense food, and difficult to burn off those calories in physical activity. Such an environment makes it very easy to  gain weight particularly if you are genetically disposed.  In terms of weight gain it can be said that ‘Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger’.

Are East Lothian communities obesogenic – and if so are we asking all the dedicated staff who provide programmes like Busy Bugs to bail out a leaky boat?