Remember Graeme Le Saux? Well, if you are a football fan of a certain age then the answer to that question will be yes. It just so happens that when I was flicking through what was on TV last night I came across Le Saux on The Pledge, Sky News’ topical debate show. On a day that sees the European Championships, a tournament that Le Saux missed twice through injury, kick-off, it seemed apt to bring up what I caught him discussing.
Le Saux, a regular panelist on the show, chose to bring up the story that had been floating around over the past week that concerned the fitting of gastric bands and how they could help save millions for the NHS. The point the ex-England full back was making was that this reactionary treatment, while effective in certain cases, should not be the solution and, that instead, the Government should demand more from schools in the amount of P.E. that is delivered to children.
One word I was happy to hear come up a few times as the panellists began their discussion was “habits”. I could never be accused of underselling the idea of adopting good habits and I always stress how much easier it makes training if done effectively. And it is true to say that the earlier you get into these habits, the better.
So what is the problem with P.E. as it exists in its current form? Well in primary schools the problem is obvious. Many schools don’t have a specialist teacher of physical education and this means that kids aren’t getting the expertise that they need at an early stage. In secondary schools that isn’t the case though but by then some claim that it is just too late. Children need to be motivated to exercise from an early age and eleven just isn’t soon enough.
Then when kids do get to secondary school, competitiveness becomes a big thing and a lot of the children who don’t find that sport comes naturally to them can find themselves pushed aside. Then add into the mix that a lot of children will only be doing one or two sessions a week and you can see where Le Saux is coming from.
But does this simplify a clearly complex issue? Is it enough to just legislate for schools to teach P.E. more regularly and have specialist coaches to do it? One thing we can say for certain is that if children want to have access to the things that contribute towards childhood obesity then they aren’t difficult to get. Whether that means too many unhealthy meals or just an over indulgence in video games.
The truth is I don’t know any child who thinks of exercise as an inconvenience if they are having fun. It doesn’t feel like medicine to them but in a way that is what it is. Yes, junk food is relatively inexpensive for kids and if they want to eat it there isn’t a lot that people can do about it, least alone schools; parents perhaps.
And that brings me on to the most important point: education starts at home. It’s about setting a good example for kids. They soon switch on if you tell them not to do something that they see you doing on a daily basis. And similarly, they will be more likely to be enthusiastic about exercising if you are willing to do it with them.
I can certainly agree with Graeme Le Saux on one thing, surgery is definitely not the answer.