Physical activity is the best way of giving children a sporting chance

Youngsters are better off if they are kept busy, writes Julie Rollo

Picture: PA

After another year of school runs, exams, homework, music lessons, shows and awards presentations, both children and their parents/guardians need a break. The summer holidays are the light at the end of the tunnel – even if the sun only makes a cameo appearance. While this is a great time for the whole family to unwind, it is also vital for children to keep healthy and active during this hiatus from the classroom.

As a mother to two teenage daughters, I am a veteran of the summer holidays, and, as marketing manager for Edinburgh Leisure, I am also keenly aware of the importance of physical activity for youngsters, come rain or shine. It is one of the reasons why Edinburgh Leisure offers such a varied roster of different activities for the children of Edinburgh every summer.

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Don’t just take our word for it, though. The experts also back up our opinion: the chief medical officer advocated at least an hour of “moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity” for those aged 5-18 every day in its 2011 UK Physical Activity Guidelines.

The World Health Organisation also classes the effects of an inactive way of life as an “emerging issue” for young people, too, impacting on “physical, cognitive, and psychosocial development”. This highlights just how important it is to make sure our children are out there enjoying all the benefits of physical activity, both for their body and mind.

That is why our summer offerings ensure that children will be kept busy, both physically and mentally. Take our free Summer In the Meadows activities for five to 16-year-olds, for example. Here you will find activities as diverse as boccia and gymnastics on offer by the Pavilion Café every Wednesday and Friday, 2pm to 4pm. Taking on new sporting challenges keeps young bodies and brains busy at a time when they might otherwise be lying on the sofa during the long summer break.

Edinburgh Leisure also runs Summer Activator Multi-Activity Holiday Camps. For primary school-age children, these will run at a large selection of our venues, including Ainslie Park, Drumbrae and Meadowbank. Children can take part in activities like athletics or badminton, or even jump into the wonderful world of bouncy castles and trampolining. And for all the young people inspired by Wimbledon, we have a summer of tennis coaching and camps on offer, too. Again, youngsters can enjoy the physical benefits of sport, but also make new friends.

It is also important to Edinburgh Leisure that we have an inclusive approach to activities for children. No-one should miss out on the joy of living a happy and healthy lifestyle, and that is why we offer a Disability Athletics Summer Camp at Meadowbank. Running in July and August, it caters to 8 to 17-year-olds with physical, learning and sensory impairments, encouraging participants to experience the positive impact sport can have on anyone’s life.

In the past few years Scotland has shown improvement in the physical activity levels of its young people, but there is still work to be done, and that is why we are so passionate about getting children moving. 2013

Scottish Government figures reveal 75 per cent of children achieved the physical activity recommendations set out by the body. This was up from 71 per cent in the 2008-9 year. While it is great to see more children becoming active, this still means that a quarter of children aren’t getting access to the myriad of benefits of physical activity. Ensuring the good habits picked up in PE during term time are not abandoned in the summer months is essential for keeping young people active all year.

In short, make sure your children get all they can out of their summer. Keeping children active can help them in so many ways, it is a great investment for any parent/guardian. School may be out for summer, but physical activity is definitely in this season.

Julie Rollo is Marketing Manager for Edinburgh Leisure