Much has been made of late of the importance of sport and exercise in schools. For many education authorities, funding has been cut, and there has been growing concern that many schoolchildren are simply not getting enough exercise. Many are worried that this could lead to an obesity epidemic if the situation continues.
And, aside from obesity, the problems that children face further down the line if they do not participate in any form of physical activity can include:
- back and joint pain
- heart disease
On the other hand, the benefits of engaging in sport or exercise can include:
- better quality of life
- more energy
- less risk of depression due to increased endorphins
- reduced risk of some forms of cancer
Psychological Benefits of Sport
So the physical benefits of playing sport in school are obvious – after all, school is where children spend a large amount of their time each week.
But there is more to the issue than just physical benefits. There are psychological benefits too. Exercise is known to release endorphins, which can reduce the risk of depression. And then there is the feeling of achievement, and being part of something, as well as the enjoyment children get out of working together with their friends and peers.
So it is important that children learn the benefits of playing sports from a young age. It doesn’t even have to be competitively – research has shown that very young children don’t tend to respond to that – as long as they are actively encouraged towards some form of sporting activity.
Going for Gold…?
Sport in schools is also crucial if we are to nurture future sporting greats. Many Olympic athletes started out doing sport at school, and without regular chance to practise their skills, would not be where they are today. They are great role models for children as they promote a healthier lifestyle, and whilst not every child is going to be an Olympic medallist or football star, these figures are something to aspire to, especially when there are so many Z-list “celebrities” around.
A Bit of Healthy Competition
In older children, competition is important. Playing sport at school is more fun because children get to work with (and perhaps win with) their friends and peers. It’s a bonding experience that encourages them to work together towards a common goal. Depending on the sport, it can also instil values of teamwork, discipline, morale, self confidence and responsibility, all of which are vital if children are to grow up into well rounded adults.
There has been some criticism of children being actively encouraged to compete with one another, but they will always face competition in life, and sport should teach them to lose gracefully and accept that they can’t win all the time.
Lastly, sports scholarships can offer children from poorer backgrounds, who are talented at sport, opportunities they might otherwise not get. This gives them motivation and self-confidence, which in turn carries over to other areas of life.
So the importance of sport in schools is fairly clear. What is not so clear is how education authorities are to get children participating when so many of them face budget cuts. However, if we are to avoid an obesity epidemic, it is vital that children get more exercise, and sport in schools needs to make up a large part of that.