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Families should swap home school for sport and play to keep healthy during half-term, says exercise expert


Parents and their children should make the switch from home schooling to sports training during the upcoming half-term holidays to improve their health and wellbeing, according to an academic from Birmingham City University.

Centre for Life and Sport Sciences

Birmingham City University

Dr Adam Kelly, senior lecturer and course leader for sports coaching and physical education at the University, believes it is vitally important that families plan their own exercise sessions during the February half-term break while organised sports activities remain out of bounds as a result of the Covid lockdown.

His advice follows calls earlier this month from the UK’s leisure industry body ukactive, and the Youth Sports Trust charity, for government to support parents’ efforts to keep their children healthy while sports clubs are still closed, and for greater clarity on what activities can and cannot take place.

Dr Kelly said:

"The positive effects of exercise on both physical and psychological wellbeing have long been known but for the most part people have been much less active during lockdown.

Dr Kelly understands well the impact that Covid and its effect on sport is having on children’s emotional and physical state. Last year, together with colleagues from Birmingham City University and researchers from universities in the USA and Canada, he conducted an international study of youth sport during the pandemic.  Almost 80 per cent of parents surveyed as part of the study reported a decrease in their children’s social health and wellbeing as a result of not being able to participate as normal in sporting activity.

With guidance still to be published on when organised youth sport can resume, and with most children unable to take part in any in PE lessons at school, the academic believes the forthcoming February break presents an opportunity for families to take part in some skills practice of their own, whatever sport they enjoy, either spontaneously or perhaps planning a competitive element to make it more entertaining.

Dr Kelly continued:

“Parents can allow their children to show off their skills and encourage them to be competitive through things like the toilet roll challenge – the kick-up exercise that has proved popular with professional footballers – and creative obstacle courses either in their garden or parks or other public spaces.“

Dr Kelly has just completed further research into the impact of the pandemic on youth sport. His initial findings, which are currently being reviewed, reveal that restrictions preventing competitions taking place are leading to a shift in focus from developing talent and winning games to maintaining fitness and having fun.

While he believes that nurturing talent, sharpening skills and instilling a competitive spirit in athletes will continue to play a big part in sport after the pandemic, he thinks parents for now can take a more light hearted approach to developing their own children’s sporting prowess.

“Like teachers, sports coaches are skilled, dedicated and well-qualified people,” he said. “I know some parents are finding it tough enough teaching schoolwork so I wouldn’t expect them to suddenly be able to turn their children into sporting superstars! The emphasis should be on enjoyment. Sport can be an avenue for fun as well as fitness.”

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