27 Sep 2020
By Mark Richards
The Coronavirus pandemic has thrown the world as we know it upside down. We have been forced to recalibrate our lives and lifestyles as we get to grips with what constitutes the ‘new normal.’
To a certain extent, life may never be the same. The crisis has shone a spotlight on many areas and issues in society. And, alongside all the challenges, there is also an opportunity for us to think differently about how we live. There is a chance to do things differently.
One thing that most people would agree that needs to be approached differently is the issue of obesity.
Obesity has been described as a ticking public health timebomb, and the COVID pandemic has once again thrown the issue into focus. Public Health England has warned that people who are overweight, and with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 to 29.9, are at higher risk of dying if they contract COVID-19.
In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently launched the ‘Better Health’ campaign – a major public health drive to tackle obesity. Measures include GPs prescribing cycling, 12-week plans to improve eating habits, and improved access to NHS weight loss services.
Although largely aimed at the adult population, it is hoped that certain policies – such as banning TV adverts for junk food before the 9 pm watershed, will have a positive impact on younger people too.
As schools re-boot and consider the best way forward from September, there are calls for cycling to become a part of the curriculum, as a way to address the obesity crisis. Studies have shown worrying figures when it comes to childhood obesity and it stands to reason that if young people fall into bad habits with health, fitness and diet, then these habits can be very hard to break in later life.
Cycling, a crucial life skill, is actually one of the most popular activities among children. However, studies have shown that cycle use has plummeted since the 1970s – by 60% for boys and 70% for girls. It’s also estimated that only around 50% of all children have access to high quality cycle training.
Now, in the light of the COVID crisis, there have been fresh calls to include cycle training as part of the National Curriculum at Key Stages 2-4. Although, it is sensible and understandable that swimming is mandatory with a requirement that all children learn to swim 25 metres, it seems strange that cycling is not deemed so important.
As well as the obvious health benefits, cycling always enables children to travel independently. However, it’s also that if children don’t learn to ride a bike properly then it is unlikely that they will go on to use a bike in later life.
Putting cycling onto the school curriculum would seem to be a win/win situation. Anything that promotes a healthy lifestyle should be encouraged. Schools certainly have a major part to play in this. Therefore, having cycling on the curriculum appears to be a logical step.
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