Experts estimate that one in four children in Poland meet the recommendations of the World Health Organisation regarding physical activity and exercise at least one hour a day. Every decade physical condition of the young generation deteriorates systematically. These statistics can be reversed. It is confirmed by the Active MultiSport Schools education programme which has mobilised more than 9,000 schoolchildren from the Dolny Śląsk region to become active. The second edition of the programme starts in spring of 2019 in primary schools in the Mazowsze region.
Last year the Active MultiSport Schools Programme was run in 35 primary schools in the Dolny Śląsk region. The project’s objective is to inspire children, parents and teachers to introduce more physical activity in primary school pupils’ daily routine.
- In every school which took part in the project we organised workshops connected with physical activity. They were attended by teachers, parents, local authorities and children. These meetings resulted in various ideas on how to make children physically active. Every school came up with at least one solution, such as an active road to school or lessons on Pilates balls. Majority of the solutions were low-cost ideas which, as it turned out, had great results – says Jakub Kalinowski, President of the V4Sport Foundation that runs the project.
The latest measurement of physical activity of Polish children
Within the Active MultiSport School initiative, all children took part in the Eurofit test twice. The test consists of nine simple exercises (e.g.: standing broad jump, shuttle run, balance test, bent arm hang). The measurement at the beginning and at the end of the test enabled verifying children’s progress and the effectiveness of the programme itself.
As a result of the Active MultiSport Schools Programme, children regained 43% of fitness that their peers had lost between 1999 and 2009. As many as 86% of schools participating in the programme improved their pupils’ physical condition.
The results of the fitness test done within the Active MultiSport Schools Programme can be compared with the data collected by the Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw for more than 30 years.
– Thanks to these measurements we know that in 1979 children were averagely 1.8% fitter than their peers in 1999 and almost 4.5% fitter than their peers in 2009. It may seem that the difference is relatively small but if this tendency is sustained, compared to the results from 1979 – the peak of social and economic crisis in Poland – physical activity of 60% of children in Poland may soon be on a poor or a very poor level – emphasises Dr Janusz Dobosz from the National Centre of Physical Condition Examination at the Józef Piłsudski University of Physical Education in Warsaw.
One of the examples of deteriorated physical activity is a bent arm hang test. In 2018 boys at the age of 10.5 were able to hang for almost 8 minutes, which is almost 4 seconds less than their peers in 2009, more than 7.5 seconds less than their peers in 1999 and as much as 16.5 seconds less than their peers in 1979.
– For 152 days children participating in the Active MultiSport Schools Programme managed to significantly improve their results in this test. At the beginning of the project boys (10.5 years old) were able to hang for 8 seconds on average. At the end of the programme they improved their result by more than a second – adds Dr Janusz Dobosz.
The biggest improvement in physical activity is visible among the sixth, seventh and eighth graders who took part in the programme. Oldest boys (between 12.5 and 14.5 years of age) improved their results in the fitness test two times more than their colleagues from lower grades.
Being active means healthy body and healthy brain
Physical activity supports children’s psychophysical development. It stimulates proper growth of bones and muscles. It improves motor coordination and cognitive skills.
– The right amount of physical activity improves the brain’s functioning by having a positive impact on children’s concentration, memory and creativity. All these elements make absorbing knowledge by kids easier – says Dr Aneta Górska-Kot, specialist paediatrician.
Physical activity is also the simplest prophylaxis method.
– Being active is children’s natural need not without reason. Physical activity not only stimulates their physical and psychological growth but also builds their health for the future by reducing the risk of such diseases of affluence as obesity, type 2 diabetes or hypertension. Surveys show that one in ten second graders have incorrect blood pressure which relates to being overweight and obese – emphasises Dr Aneta Górska-Kot.
As many as 31.2% of eight-year-olds in Poland are overweight and 12.7% of them suffer from obesity (COSI 2016). According to the World Health Organisation, a sedentary lifestyle is the fourth cause of people’s death in the world, preceded by hypertension, smoking and hyperglycaemia.
Children are frozen
The latest HBSC 2018 surveys show that only 21% of girls and 24% of boys at the age of 11 undertake planned hourly physical activity every day, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation.
– Considering numerous positive effects for the body, physical activity should not be perceived as a painful duty but as a real investment in one’s health. Meanwhile, the surveys conducted within the Active MultiSport Schools Programme show that up to 20% of children still don’t take part in physical education classes. In this group as many as 22% of kids are excused from these classes at their parent’s request – emphasises Adam Radzki, Management Board Member at Benefit Systems, the company that created and sponsors the Active MultiSport Schools Programme.
Experts accentuate that the key role in building the right habit of being active is played by parents. Meanwhile, only 44% of children undertake physical activity after school (walking, riding a bike) together with their parents. Additionally, 48% of children are driven to school.
Physical activity adjusted to children’s preferences
– Children’s preferences survey conducted during the first edition of the Active MultiSport Schools Programme shows that physical activity of youngest kids is associated mainly with leisure and fun. For 79% of children fun is the key factor that motivates them to undertake physical activity – emphasises Jakub Kalinowski.
Children’s fitness test done as a part of the Active MultiSport Schools Programme was based on a fairy-tale narrative. Doing the test, children enter the Immobility Galaxy and face lazy monsters. Every exercise combines multimedia technology and interactive game with colourful pictures.
– Exercises’ attractive formula and lack of individual competition made children participate in an original, colourful fitness test willingly. Additionally, on the test day children could demonstrate their skills in various sports disciplines that they like – adds Jakub Kalinowski.
The Active MultiSport Schools survey showed that competition is the key aspect of physical activity among youngest children. As many as 60% of first, second and third graders take part in sporting activities because they like winning. Among older children it is self-esteem that has decisive influence on undertaking physical activity. As many as 54% of pupils from 4-8 grades do not undertake any specific activities due to low self-esteem.
More inspiring information about the programme can be found on the programme’s website: www.aktywneszkoly.pl