Physical activity is widely celebrated for its health benefits and is a key strategy in improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders. In addition to increasing physical fitness, physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, depression and a number of cancers.
New Zealand children and young people appear to be following global trends of becoming increasingly overweight or obese, which a lack of physical activity and physical education contributes to.
The Health of New Zealand 2012/13 survey found that;
Nearly half of children aged 2–14 years (45.2 %) usually use active transport (eg; walking, cycling) to get to and from school.
More than half of children aged 5–14 years (50.7%) usually watch two or more hours of television per day.
Physical activity does not relate solely to participation in sports or individual exercise. It can include recreational activities, like dancing, playing at the playground, climbing trees or playing tag with friends.
Research suggests that physical activity enhances brain function, the learning process and children’s academic performance across all curriculum areas. So besides enjoying the health benefits of regular exercise, kids who are physically fit sleep better and are further equipped to handle physical and emotional challenges — from running to catch a bus to studying for a test!
Schools play an important role in ensuring children get enough physical activity. This is by way of supporting and facilitating active play during class and break times, encouraging active transport to and from school and improving the competence and confidence of staff members through staff development and the provision of quality resources. If physical activity in education settings is left only to voluntary sport involvement, or left only to the discretion of individual teachers, the risk of non-participation and further inactivity is greatly enhanced.
There are many resources and programmes available to schools which can help with supporting physical activity among students.
Information and guidelines on ways to support physical activity in schools can be found in our guidance documents section. In order to ensure sustainable changes in physical activity, it is important that these guidelines are implemented using a 'whole school approach'. This means embedding physical activity messages and practices into curriculum, teaching and learning, school organisation and ethos and community links and partnerships.
To see examples of schools supporting physical activity, check out our case studies section, and be sure to look through our resources for links to free toolkits, posters, books and other information to support your physical activity programme.
Reference: Ministry of Health. 2013. New Zealand Health Survey: Annual update of key findings 2012/13. Wellington: Ministry of Health.