YES – Roxanna Wright, Staff Writer

Britain is becoming more and more of an obese nation. It has been found that we have the highest statistics of obesity in Western Europe, and these statistics are only increasing. In the NHS 2020 Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet in England, it was found that 67% of male adults and 60% of female adults were considered overweight or obese. This does not only dampen people’s quality of life through a higher chance of developing health conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol which increases chances of strokes and coronary heart disease, but it also adds a massive strain on our NHS. One certain way of improving this statistic is by making it mandatory for children to participate in a weekly sports club, whether that is inside or outside of school.

Humans are well known as being creatures of habit; we stick within what we are comfortable with, and we love routines. If exercise is enforced into a child’s routine on a weekly basis from the age of 5 up until 16 years old, it would feel unnatural to not be a part of a sports club in their early adult life, and hopefully further into the future.

Not only would this technique prevent obesity in adult life, but also obesity in their childhood. The NHS statistics found that 20% of Year 6 children, children of ages 10 to 11 years old, were labelled obese. Furthermore, statistics revealed that only 47% of children and young people were meeting the current physical activity guidelines in the UK.

Not only does the idea of it being mandatory that a child joins a sports club reduce the chances of obesity, health conditions and meeting exercise standards, but it also does wonders in terms of mental health. Endorphins, dopamine and serotonin are all chemicals that are released in the brain during exercise. Endorphins are linked to the relief of stress and pain. Dopamine is linked to emotions of pleasure, but it also plays important roles in cognitive function and motivation. Finally, serotonin is known as being the happy chemical; stabilizing our mood and sense of well-being. Who wouldn’t want to participate in something that makes us feel as good as exercise does? 

As well as all those lovely chemicals, sports gives you the opportunity to socialise with like-minded people. Playing in a team or learning and competing alongside others can make you feel apart of a community. When you are in school, you can build closer friendships with your fellow peers. Then as you grow older and join adult classes, you are able to meet people from all over the country with a variation of backgrounds, values and hobbies which you may not have met otherwise.

However, in an interview with a primary school teacher in East Sussex, one issue arose from the idea of making sporting clubs mandatory. “Making it a mandatory thing can take the fun out of anything if you feel it becomes a chore or something you must do. Sports should be fun regardless at the standard you play, and that is key to why I feel sports is so good as that element of fun is something I didn’t get with other lessons when I was growing up. So, to make it compulsory could ruin that ethos, so as forementioned, I feel its place on the curriculum is enough.”

The issue that enforcing children to participate in sport clubs may create feelings of it being a chore, was one that I took into consideration when contemplating this idea. However, according to the Worlds Sports Encyclopaedia, there are 8,000 indigenous sports and sporting games in the world, 200 of these sports being internationally recognised through an international governing body. Unfortunately, Primary and Secondary schools will not have the facilities, money, resources or time to let pupils try out each of these sports in PE lessons. Therefore, the chances of finding a sport you feel truly passionate about through school is limited. 

As a solution, by enforcing a rule that children should participate in a weekly sport, inside or outside of school, they are more likely to explore a multitude of types of sports, broadening their viewpoint of exercise even further than what schools can offer them. These sports can be anything from ultimate frisbee to synchronised swimming to horse riding to Tae Kwon Do. With the choice of hundreds of sports made available to children, it now seems fairly impossible for a single child to not have a particular interest or enjoyment of one of these sports. Concluding that not only will the child be positively impacted through this rule, but the NHS will be too.

NO – Charlie Batten, Sports Print Editor

When I was in school, I was one of those kids that loved PE. I was kind of an all-rounder at every sport and spent time competing for my school in various sports and competitions. At one point I even had it where every day at school I either did PE or did an after-school club that was sports related because for me that was what I got the most enjoyment out of growing up. Some of my friends however did not share the same experience.

For my mates, PE was their most hated subject as they were forced to change clothes, stand in the cold, and have a teacher scream at them to run after a ball that they’re not entirely sure why they’re running after. Simply put, they did not enjoy sport and the idea that they would have to be forced to do even more would have been horrible.

For a lot of school children PE is just a subject in the same way English, maths and science are. If you force a kid to spend more time doing maths then chances are they would begin to hate it and that is not what you want with sport. A better alternative is to have schools increase the variety of sports that they base their PE curriculum under in order to allow kids the chance to find one that suits them in the hopes that they pick it up either after school or after they finish full-time education. It only takes one sport that piques a kid’s interest for them to create a lifelong attachment to it.

To this I understand that there is the argument that not all sports are accessible to everyone due to a variety of costs and that is where the government needs to step up. Many times, I have heard them comment and complain about the child obesity rates in this country but have failed to make a lasting impact on preventing it. To help out they need to provide the funding to both schools and sports clubs to buy or at least rent the equipment that will allow people to take part without the worry of costs for the kids or their parents. There is also the worry of the cost of travel which is why there should be more local sports clubs that offer a variety of sports for its local kids as well as adults. They also need to take into account single parent households and work out a way to still allow these children to make it to sport events as they deserve the same opportunities as kids from double parent households. Of course, all of this will cost the government a fair bit of money but this would be money that will be saved from treating obesity related illnesses from both kids and adults.

There is no use in forcing people to increase their participation in sport as it will only cause resentment from some people. What must be done instead is allowing people the opportunities to take part in sport and hope that for some of them it will cause them to increase their physical exercise and in turn increase their physical health. 

Sport also isn’t the only way to help improve people’s health. Healthy eating can also have a massive impact on kids and teaching those good habits whilst their young could result in these habits staying with them through into their adult life. This would be an incredibly easy feat to achieve as it could be easily taught in either PE or science lessons and if it was taken seriously enough to be a regularly occurring theme in the curriculum that will increase the chances of it sticking in the kids minds.

All in all, I think that forcing kids to join a sports club is not the right way to tackle child obesity or to get them interested and committed to sport. For one it will have a negative impact on some children’s mental health. It will feel like PE which many kids have never and will never enjoy. There are also other methods which I feel are more realistic in the attempt to combat these problems such as increasing government funding to sports clubs to allow for increased participation without it costing the participants. Also increasing the efforts to educate children on the importance of healthy eating and the positive effects it can have on their health will improve overall health.

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