By Sue Heron - Paediatric Physiotherapist and Programme Co-ordinator Tatty Bumpkin Ltd.
The Copenhagen Consensus Conference 2016: children, youth, and physical activity in schools and during leisure time
In April 2016, 24 researchers from 8 countries and a variety of academic disciplines gathered in Denmark, to reach an evidence-based consensus about the impact of physical activity on children.
The researchers defined physical activity as a general term covering structured or unstructured activities that occurred either within school or out-of-school. Types of physical activity could include: organised sport, PE, outdoor recreation, motor skill development programmes, play-time and active transport to and from school such as biking and walking.
After deliberation the researchers reached agreement on a statement to describe the effects of physical activity on children’s:
• cognitive functioning – thinking skills
• psychological well-being and social inclusion.
Below is a summary of the statement which focused on 4 main themes.
THEME 1: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN CHILDREN: FITNESS AND HEALTH
- Frequent exercise improves heart and digestive fitness in children
- Fitness levels in children are strong predictors of future diseases such as coronary artery disease and diabetes I.e. Good fitness levels in childhood lower the chance of children developing these conditions in later life.
- Physical activity is important in the treatment of many childhood chronic diseases.
- Children participating in leisure-time sports have higher levels of fitness and overall cardio-metabolic health, and better musculoskeletal health when involved in weight-bearing sports.
THEME 2: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN CHILDREN: COGNITIVE FUNCTIONING
- Physical activity and fitness are beneficial to brain structure and function and support children’s thinking skills. Just a single session of moderate physical activity during the school day benefits brain function, cognition and academic performance.
- Physical activity before, during and after school promotes academic performance
- Mastery of fundamental movement skills is beneficial to a chid's thinking skills and their academic performance.
- Time away from academic lessons for physical activity has been shown NOT to effect academic performance.
THEME 3: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN CHILDREN: ENGAGEMENT, MOTIVATION, PSYCHOLOGICAL WELL-BEING
- Engagement in physical activity can positively influence psychological and social outcomes, such as a child’s self-esteem and their relationships with friends and family.
- Mastery focused, caring environments which allow children to express their own ideas positively influence their motivation, physical activity behaviour and their well-being.
- Forming close friendships, and feeling accepted by others, whilst doing a physical activity helps children to join in, feel motivated and generally feel more competent.
- Activity based, planned, goal orientated programmes which are appropriate to the children's level of development and are delivered by trained personnel are effective in promoting life skills e.g. interpersonal, self-regulation skills and core values such as respect and social responsibility.
THEME 4: PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IN CHILDREN: SOCIAL INCLUSION AND PHYSICAL ACTIVITY IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES
- Participation of children in physical activity and sport is influenced by socioeconomic status, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, skill level and disabilities.
- Culturally and contextually relevant physical activities help to recognise and account for the diverse lives of children and help promote social inclusion.
- Social inclusion can be promoted by providing equal access to opportunities within physical activity and sports settings regardless of children’s social, cultural, physical and demographic characteristics.
- Whole school approaches and the provision of physical activity-conducive environments are effective strategies for enhancing physical activity whilst ensuring equitable access.
Reference: Bangsbo J, et al. Br J Sports Med 2016;0:1–2. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2016-096325