In recent years, public health campaigns have urged Scots to think about “the big three” killers – heart attacks, cancer and strokes. Our appalling health record has made us world leaders when it comes to death from these often preventable illnesses.
But it is another potentially deadly condition that threatens hundreds of thousands of Scots. Rising obesity levels mean that diabetes is becoming more prevalent.
Many of those suffering from diabetes and its complications could have been spared from their misery by taking preventative measures in the form of physical exercise.
Doctors at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh say more than 180,000 Scots could avoid diabetes if they began taking part in regular physical activity.
The message on the importance of maintaining fitness has been painfully slow to get through to Scots but the Scottish Government must redouble its efforts to ensure that it does. All political parties at Holyrood pronounce their commitment to the provision of adequate physical education in Scotland’s schools, but the truth is that Physical Education (PE) remains an under-resourced part of the curriculum.
Scotland’s education system is under considerable pressure right now; literacy and numeracy standards have fallen unacceptably low and there remains disagreement between teachers over the merits of the Curriculum for Excellence.
In the current debate, the importance of PE in schools is being ignored.
It is difficult, in adulthood, to change bad habits. Far better, then, to ensure that young Scots acquire good habits as soon as possible.
PE should not be an afterthought in our schools. An exercise habit developed early can last a lifetime. Education Secretary John Swinney has a considerable task in front of him as he attempts to improve standards in education. We hope he will add to his list of priorities a substantial, meaningful increase in the hours of PE offered throughout a child’s school career.