To highlight that school-aged children and adolescents should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, WHO Europe recently published a review on the positive effect of physical activity on academic performance.
Schools are the perfect vehicle for school-aged children to engage in physical activity. However, the vast majority of the time spent at school involves sedentary activities, with only 5% of school time dedicated to physical activity. Engagement with physical activity in schools is often forfeited for the sake of academic performance, rather than being treated as a means to positively impact children’s health, wellbeing and performance in the classroom.
“Physical activity is beneficial for the development of cognitive, motor and social skills, as well as and good metabolic and musculoskeletal health. There is also a knock-on effect on academic performance,” stated Stephen Whiting, Technical Officer in the WHO European Office for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs)
The review identified several areas where actions can be taken, including the training of teachers in physical activity promotion, the creation of appropriate spaces, materials and resources, encouragement of innovation, and partnerships with community organisations.
Acting on the importance of physical activity for young people, EuropeActive successfully ran The Active Learning for Children in Schools, co-funded by the Erasmus+ programme. This project encouraged children to reflect on the different lifestyle choices concerning physical activity through educational material and fun-oriented exercise classes.