A Golden Kilometre challenge in Barnet’s primary schools could encourage children to be more physically active throughout their lives according to new research from Middlesex University.
Primary school children in Barnet complete a kilometre every day through walking, jogging or running in the initiative.
Working with Barnet Council’s Public Health team, MDX London Sports Institute student Shannah Anico has been researching whether the Golden KM can develop children’s ‘physical literacy’, which means the motivation, confidence, knowledge and understanding to value and take part in physical activity for life.
As part of her PhD, Shannah carried out a study with two primaries – Wessex Gardens and St Martins – in which pupils recorded their physical activity, completed a lifestyle questionnaire and had their body fat, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference monitored. She also interviewed teachers and children about their attitudes towards physical activity.
"It’s so important at primary school age that children learn to build a healthy relationship with physical activity and enjoy it." Shannah Anico, PhD student
Results showed a “significant improvement” in body fat, BMI and fundamental movement skills and also highlighted how the challenge can “enhance” physical literacy when the pupils’ needs and abilities are considered – with Shannah stressing there is “no one size fits all” approach.
She said: “If you see an improvement in physical literacy that person is more likely to take part in physical activity for life, so the Barnet Golden Kilometre challenge could have a positive lasting impact if children’s needs are met.
“What children really enjoyed was the 15 minutes of daily exercise and the freedom they had to decide whether they walked, jogged or ran at their own pace.
“It’s so important at primary school age that children learn to build a healthy relationship with physical activity and enjoy it, because too many children leave school with a negative experience of exercise and physical education in general and that’s what stops children being able to maintain a healthy, active lifestyle into adulthood.
“This concept of physical literacy is unique because we’re looking beyond just fitness and body weight – although they are important things to consider – at issues such as whether children have a positive experience and will they take that away into other exercises or are they inspired to do more physical activity?”
Cllr Caroline Stock, a Barnet councillor, launched the Golden Kilometre challenge in 2014 because statistics showed nearly a third of children aged two to 15 were obese in the borough and as someone with a “health background felt that the council should tackle this issue”.
She said: “This scheme has encouraged thousands of children to become more active and is clearly a beneficial activity which has made a real difference and we are hoping to encourage new schools to come on board in future.”
She would like to express her gratitude to Public Health Barnet, Health and Well-Being Partnership members, MDX student researchers and participants in the borough who have supported with the research project.