Children aged 14 are four stone heavier than those in 1948!

Children aged 14 are four stone heavier than those in 1948!

That's the headlines in some of the newspapers today and yesterday, e.g., arising from a recent study by a professor in UCC. Although thankfully there is very little evidence of this locally.

While this is not an enrolment ad for athletics (or maybe it is!), I think parents should take itheir children's involvement in sport very seriously. If your child is not doing a sport, they should. If they don't want to do one, it shouldn't matter. Exercise should be like food, drink and school – its mandatory because its good for you.

While its not good to force anyone to do any activty that doesn't interest them, I think parents should insist on at least one sport being done a few times a week. Ignore the groans of "I'm too tired" as they look up from the Playstation or wander out to the fridge during the Simpsons to get another fizzy drink.

Particularly for students in exam classes in secondary school, they drift out of sport for that year and find it very hard to return after that. So suggest that instead of sacrificing sport for study, they use some TV or playstation time for study and keep up their sport. Or maybe a little less time on MSN, Bebo or email. The responsibility is ours as parents to keep them involved in sport so that when they hit 18, they are fit and healthy and can make an easy decision to keep up sport rather than been overweight and unhealthy with a dfficult decision to commence sport.

I remember listening to a representative of the Sports Institute in University of Limerick a few years ago who advocated children doing 3 sports up to the age of 12 or so, then 2 up to the age of 16 and then if exceptionally talented, whittling down to 1 from 16 upwards. Part of the reasoning behind this was that it was the best way of ensuring your child would stay involved in a sport into adulthood. That's the key thing … participating as a young adult … it shoudn't matter how good you are at it.

Last year, Ireland's Economic & Social Research Institute published a research paper on sports participation. Two of its findings were:-

– 76% of adult sport is individual rather than team sports

– The fall-off in sporting activity in the late teens and on into adulthood is almost entirely due to people dropping out from team sports. Individual sports are played much later into adulthood and the proportion playing them does not decline much with age, if at all.

The ERSI report is at:- Its worth a read sometime.

So consider strongly getting your children involved in an individual sport as well as a team sport … it gives them a better chance of keeping fit as an adult. And what better individual sport than your nearest athletic club!

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