Physical Activity Communities > Education

Engaging children in exercise and physical activity in school poses one of the greatest challenges and opportunities for physical activity and physical education interests. More children today are overweight or obese than ever before. Research points to the life expectancy for today’s youth being considerably shorter as compared to previous generations. This means that children today may not live longer than their parents. And the culprit is sedentary lifestyles and unhealthy eating habits. Today’s children are no longer immune to so-called adult diseases, such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, various heart conditions and joint deterioration.

In 2004, it was estimated that 10% of children worldwide aged 5–17 years were overweight and that 2–3% were obese (Lobstein et al., 2004). Prevalence rates vary considerably between different regions and countries, from <5% in Africa and parts of Asia to >20% in Europe and >30% in the Americas and some countries in the Middle East. Becoming obese earlier in life clearly amplifies certain health risks.

According to WHO, regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Positive experiences with physical activity at a young age help lay the basis for being regularly active throughout life. Equally significant, studies show that exercise encourages the brain to work at optimum capacity, enhancing cognitive development. This area points readers to policies, strategies, reports and innovative campaigns promoting physical activity and education in school settings.