On Thursday May 6th, the International Society For Physical Activity And Health (ISPAH) organized a webinar together with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on how to get young people more active.
In his introductory speech, Jasper Schipperijn, ISPAH President, highlighted how physical activity levels have declined during the COVID pandemic and are currently much below the WHO recommendations, especially for young people. However, he also noted that we are now starting to see a positive trend, as restrictions are starting to ease.
Subsequently, Dr Juana Willumsen, WHO department of Non Communicable Diseases, explained that the aim of the webinar was to understand the science behind the physical activity guidelines and how to get them into practice. She reminded that it is very important for children to be active, both for their physical and mental health.
In his presentation, Dr Jean-Philippe Chaput further developed the evidence presented in the WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour. There are indeed multiple beneficial health outcomes of being physically active, which start with a level of activity of 60min per day of moderate to vigorous intensity. For instance, it is of critical importance for physical fitness (e.g. cardiorespiratory, motor development), bone and cardiometabolic health, as well as mental health. Physical activity also has positive cognitive outcomes, which are especially important for children’s development.
During the panel discussion, the important role schools can play in getting children more active was emphasized. Ms Nubia Ruiz, Colombian Ministry of Sports, explained that hybrid strategies were developed to encourage young people to be physically active during school day, such as active breaks and virtual campaigns. Ms Palma Chillon also explained that there is a focus on active transport to and from school in Spain, such as walking and cycling. Lastly, Ms Nancy McLennan presented the UNESCO Quality Physical Education programme which aims at developing inclusive, child-centred physical education policies.
There was an agreement among the panellists that more public investment is needed to further develop physical activity for young people in order to reach the recommended levels.