How Sport Development Policies Can Support Physical Inactivity

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Identify how an understanding of sport development policies can support action directed towards physical inactivity

Sport development policies ensure that people have access and a wider range of opportunities to participate in sport within their local community, especially in deprived areas of the community as opportunities are limited. Sport development policies target individuals to become more physically active as this has not only benefits for the individual but also for society. Figures show that in 2016 one in four women and one in five men in England are classed as physically inactive as they do less than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per week.(GOV.UK.2016) Which clearly indicates that it is an issue in England, sport development policies include government funding into sports schemes. Sport schemes like Sport England, Sainsbury’s School games and PE lessons in primary schools are all funded by the government. The World Health Organization suggest that ‘physical activity can be undertaken in many different ways: walking, cycling, sports and active forms of recreation.’ (Godbey, G.C., Caldwell, L.L., Floyd, M. and Payne, L.L., 2005.). Physical inactivity is a clear global and generational issue as 3 in 4 adolescents do not meet the recommendations for physical activity set by the World Health Organization. Sport development policies are essential to promote physical activity, alongside improving society’s knowledge on what is considered to be a physical activity. Physical activity not only improves self- esteem and social factors but it also benefits your health as it can help prevent numerous chronic conditions ranging from obesity, diabetes to some cancers showing the importance of sport development policies to promote physical activity. As well as physical inactivity having a negative impact on the individual themselves and their health it also has a negative impact on the government as physical inactivity is costing approximately £7.4 billion a year (Sport England).

A campaign called ‘Everybody active, every day,’ was launched in October 2014 to encourage individuals to become more active. This campaign was not necessarily about funding sport schemes to begin with, its aim was to make physical activity a social norm within society. If the social norm for physical activity was encouraged from a young age then it would benefit society throughout generations as they would know no different. Professor Kevin Fenton identified that ‘ we need to make physical activity the easy, accessible and natural choice for everyone.’ This is an example of a policy that aims to integrate sport and exercise into society rather than funding programmes that only appeal to a certain number of people. Sport developments purpose is to increase number of participants and to enhance quality of performances (Green, 2005) Correlating with the pyramid model of sport development in which mass- participation sport is at the bottom and high-performance sport at the top. This campaign certainly increases the number of participants and allows mass- participation in sport as it aims to encourage every individual to participate. This campaign also supports the first component of Coakley’s theory (2011) being ‘Play’- which involves expressive activity done for its own sake: it is often spontaneous and guided by informal, emergent norms.’ The idea of social norms encouraging activity is a key point in this campaign as it aims to make physical activity the norm and not unusual.

Another key national campaign is the Sainsbury’s School Games in which the National Lottery funds but it a programme that is delivered on an annual basis by the government. This is a different type of campaign as it directly aims to increase participation in sport by injecting money into sport. In 2015 726,144 children participated in the school games and 12% were young and also had a disability (Everybody Active, Every Day: Two Years On) These figures show that physical activity is accessible to everyone, as there are different levels to the school games depending on their physical ability. It ranges from intra- school competition, inter school competition to a national level. (Sport England) This helps prevent physical inactivity as it aims to motivate young children and promote enjoyment out of sport. The aim of the School Games is to promote opportunities within the community for everyone to participate in sport as well as the specific focus on improving the opportunities for disabled children in their local community. Increased opportunities to participate in sport is a key focus of sports development and this campaign increases opportunities for children as well as motivating them to develop their sports skills further to then compete at a regional and national level. This also links to Cote’s Stages of Sport Development as when children are younger as they would be when they are participating in the school games they would be in the ‘sampling’ stage of sport development. This involves a high amount of deliberate play meaning that they are playing sport purely for the enjoyment and they are participating in many different sports. As children begin to play a sport more often they will develop the skills to play that sport at a higher level and move up the stages of sport development. This shows the importance of campaigns like this one as it allows children to play sport and then begin to develop skills that they will then practice with focus on one particular sport at the top of Cote’s stages of development. Sainsbury’s school games are closely linked with Change4 Life.

Another campaign that is directed towards females encourages girls and women to be more physical active. It is notified that there are increased barriers to physical activity for females, these may include gender stereotypes, a lack of motivation or careers. 2.8 million women have participated in some activity or increased their level activity since the launch of the campaign in 2015. Clearly emphasising that this policy has increased physical activity in women in particular. 37 million people saw the video on youtube promoting the campaign, showing that social media is also a key and effective factor in promoting the necessity for physical activity. (Everybody Active, Every Day: Two Years On)

By promoting physical activity it reduces the likelihood of new health issues and reduces the chance of having an unhealthy lifestyle. Some health cost savings by taking part in football is £3,274 in ages between 16-29, in relation to a £21,601 health gain by taking part in football in 16-29 year olds. This clearly shows that there is a positive impact/ gain to taking part in sport both for the economy and for health benefits. Physical activity reduces health issues for example it reduces dementia by 30%, depression by up to 30% and cardiovascular disease by up to 35%. (GOV.UK. 2016)

Although these campaigns and policies appear to be somewhat effective physical inactivity is still an issue in England as between 2017 and 2018 25% of people above the age of 16 were considered to be physically inactive. (GOV.UK) This perhaps shows that the policies and the funding put in place targets schools with the Sainsbury’s school games and funding for PE lessons, but there isn’t a campaign put in place to continue to promote active participation in sport after the age of 16.

It has been noted that in many clinical trials physical activity interventions and campaigns have incurred benefits for both mental and physical health. This supports the idea that sport development policies need to be put in place as there is clear beneficial effects for the community. As some of the positive impacts include, an improved quality of life and a better functional capacity , meaning that it not only encourages people to be more active to improve health but it also improves their well being. This clearly demonstrates the necessity for sport’s policies and for people to become more physically active. (Penedo, F. and Dahn, J. 2005).

A simple policy that could be adopted by the government in order to promote opportunities within the community for sport to take place and therefore increase the number of individuals that take part in sport are ‘Community Environmental Support.’ This policy has already been adopted in Northern Ireland and Scotland and it involves designing open spaces (green areas, parks and playgrounds) so children can play recreational sports within the community. This also encourages children to enjoy sport as they would be able to do it at their own leisure, it also enables them to have easy access to places in which they can participate in sport, by having green areas located in areas it opens up the opportunity for clubs and teams to be made. For example, parks could be a location for a match or training. This policy also involves having sports venues at a discounted price or free for students allowing them to have access to these facilities in order to participate in sport, making sport easily accessible for those who do not have a large disposable income.

Sports development policies are a key factor in supporting action directed towards physical inactivity as there are numerous campaigns that are effective in reducing physical inactivity and increasing knowledge on the health impacts and benefits that go alongside being more physically active. There are also a large number of statistics that support the requirement for policies to encourage participation in sport as there were a large number of the population that were considered to be physically inactive. By some policies and campaigns being introduced like the Sainsbury’s School games it has reduced the number of children that are physically inactive and it has placed many more children on the sport development pyramid as there is mass participation in sport. Key examples of campaigns that are aimed to reduce physical inactivity are the Sainsbury’s School Games, Everybody active, every day and Change 4 life. Some key factors that impact physical inactivity are the availability of opportunities within the community, motivation, health conditions and the knowledge of the benefits that occur by being physically active.

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