Friday, June 2, 2023

Children and elderly people need exercise to lead a better life | Letters

As Devi Sridhar rightly highlights (The secret to why exercise is so good for mental health? ‘Hope molecules’, 4 May), physical activity is crucial for maintaining good health and preventing illness. This is particularly pertinent for young people today, who are faced with a crisis in physical and mental health.

The evidence is clear that active children do better and active schools achieve more. Sadly, children exist in a system that is rigged against them – from education policy to local planning, from public health policy to the marketing of products detrimental to their health. Unhappy, unhealthy children don’t learn, which prevents them from fulfilling their potential in life.

Change in policymaking is long overdue and must shift towards prevention rather than cure. A key part of that shift is embracing the well-evidenced impact of play, physical activity and sport. We need action to focus minds on supporting young people to be active.

Too few parents know how important daily physical activity is – less than half (43%) know that young people should spend at least 60 minutes a day being moderately or vigorously active.

The Youth Sport Trust is proud to lead National School Sports Week, which aims to promote the benefits of an active lifestyle, support young people to get active, and focus on making sure that taking part in PE, sport and play is fun.

But we need to do much more. Young people are calling out for policymaking that prioritises their health and wellbeing across the board, including a focus on enabling them to increase their activity levels and empowering them to lead happier and healthier lives. Political parties would do well to listen to their voices.
Alison Oliver
Chief executive, Youth Sport Trust

Having observed the decline in health of both my parents and parents-in-law after they had moved into bungalows “in preparation for old age”, I believe Prof Sridhar to be absolutely right about exercise. The change in attitude towards exercise, exemplified by removing the need to climb stairs, resulted in a steady reduction in both their physical and mental health.
John Hopkins
Basingstoke, Hampshire

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