Great Britain was host to the Olympic Games in 2012, and Team GB put in a great performance taking home numerous medals. The slogan for the London Olympics was "Inspire a generation" and in the short term it appears that Team GB lived up to its goal. In 2012, hospital admissions related to childhood obesity fell, and the number of young people taking part in sport was quite impressive. According to a statistics round-up published in the Guardian in 2012, 86% of children playing were some form of sport.
Unfortunately, that inspiration was short-lived. According to the latest figures published by the Health and Social Care Information Centre, childhood obesity cases are increasing once again. It is hard to track sports participation, because the Department for Culture, Medicine and Sport no longer tracks sport participation themselves and Sport England only tracks participation figures for children over the age of 14. However, some groups do track the participation of their younger athletes, such as the British Wrestling Association, and those groups are seeing a steady decline in child participation.
A Worrying Trend
The decline in childhood sports participation is a worrying trend. The NHS recommends that young people aged between 5 and 18 engage in at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day. Most school PE programs do not offer anywhere near this amount, and school playtimes do not offer the kind of structured play that would ensure that children are actually getting enough exercise.
Ideally, children should practice aerobic activities and also engage in sports that strengthen their muscles and improve their bone density. Martial arts, gymnastics, tennis and team sports such as football and rugby are all good options for children, but there are many barriers to participation for young children, especially those in disadvantaged communities.
Barriers to Participation
According to a survey conducted by Sport Wales, the main barriers to participation for young people are a lack of knowledge of which sports are available in their area, and a fear that they are "not good enough". Some young people are unable to take part in sports because their families do not have a car, so they are unable to travel to the gym or the activity centre in a reasonable period of time.
Where leisure facilities were available in the local area, one common reason cited for not using the facilities was that they were too expensive. Another reason that was often cited was that the facilities were too run-down or poor quality to be worth using. These are all issues that could be easily fixed through greater investment in sport.
On a local level, Origin Sports aims to provide affordable access to sport for people of all ages in Newcastle Upon Tyne. The Elswick and Benwell & Scotswood wards both scored in the bottom 10 percent in the Index of Multiple Deprivation report for 2010. These areas lack basic services such as affordable access to sport for community members. We believe that providing residents with access to sport will help to not just improve their health and wellbeing, but also help to improve community spirit, reduce crime, and contribute to the regeneration of the area.