The importance of mental health and movement for children and young people

Blog post – 17 May 2019

London Sport Specialist Advisor for Children and Young People, Gary Palmer, looks at how Parliament is investigating the links between mental health and movement in the next generation:

The mental health of children and young people is a serious public health concern.

One in ten children in the UK have a mental health illness diagnosis according to the Mental Health Foundationand its estimated that one in four 4 may have an undiagnosed mental health issue. The actual figures may be even greater.

For many years there’s been evidence of the link between physical activity and movement experiences and positive mental health and yet 33 per cent of children and young people (5-16-year-olds) do less than 30 minutes of activity a day.

There’s also more and more examples of physical activity and movement being used to great effect as both a preventative measure and as a method of treatment to maintain good mental health.

Frequently, however, these success stories are heard about by chance and often they are designed and delivered in isolation rather than as part of strategic whole-system approach to improve the mental health and wellbeing of the community.

As London Sport’s Specialist Advisor for Children and Young People, I am currently working alongside colleagues from a variety of academic, health and physical activity backgrounds produce a report on Mental Health and Movement.

This report will contain practical suggestions for policy makers, practitioners and families and will consider how movement can help children to develop individual strategies to meet life’s challenges and to create a positive sense of self in order to lead fulfilled and healthy lives.

Produced by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for a Fit and Healthy Childhood, the report aims to pull together a variety of key themes including the influence of digital culture on child mental health and movement and intervention-based approaches to promote positive mental health.

The report will go to every MP, every member of the House of Lords and to all government departments and, it is hoped, will be a major contributor to the essential debate on this issue.

From September 2019, health education in English schools will be statutory alongside the expectation that schools offer their pupils at least 30 ‘active minutes’ every day.

No longer can we leave positive mental health to chance. The evidence is compelling and the time to act is now.

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