Swiss Junior Doctors and Undergraduate Perspective on Sport and Exercise Medicine Blog Series
By Chloé Joray
In Switzerland, almost one in five children is overweight(1). The causes are complex and multifactorial however, we know well that low levels of physical activity and unhealthy diets are a major part of the problem(2). Health initiatives at schools are imperative to guide children to remain active and eat nutritious foods. Since 2005, fit4future has has allowed more than 150,000 primary school children in Switzerland to take part in a programme that makes them more physically active and promotes all-round health(3). There are three parts to the programme: physical activity, nutrition and a ‘brain gym’.
Schools are invited to join for free. School teachers are trained twice a year to set up and run the programme at their school. The school receives a red box of sports equipment that is accessible to students during their breaks. Health experts can be invited to run workshops and the schools are encouraged to participate in ‘active days’ to discover new sports and games. Parents can join in too! They can choose to participate in the parts of the programme that attracts them most (physical activity/ nutrition/ brain gym), and there is no doubt that their presence greatly influences and encourages the children’s healthy lifestyle education and practice.
Research and scientific support
Fit4future is supported by national competence centers (Sport, Physical Activity and Health Department of University of Basel, Swiss Nutrition Society, and Promotion Santé Suisse (French for Swiss Health Promotion)). The centres ensure the programme’s quality by evaluating and continuously improving it. It is effective so far: an evaluation showed an increase in physical activity by approx. 20 minutes per week for the children involved in fit4future (not published).
A teacher’s testament
School is not only a place where children learn how to read and calculate, but it must also promote health, and teach children to live healthy. This is the reason why Sophie*, a school teacher from the lovely Canton of Jura in Switzerland, decided to join the programme last year. While Sophie has always been active and knows the importance of physical activity for children, she wanted to teach them to move and have fun. Through the programme, she makes daily lessons more active. For example, after a while sitting and working on math problems she asks children to stop, stand up and move few minutes. Sometimes, they go outside to do some specific coordination and balance exercises, and other times, they simply stand up and hop from one foot to the other in the classroom. After this little break, children go back to work. “It is not ‘a waste of time’. After a long time of learning, children need to move, and moving helps to concentrate”. Sophie and her class have participated in the programme for a few months and she observes positive outcomes. A child told her “how good it feels” after taking an active break.
“Endurance is not for children”… Really?
The programme gives tools to improve children’s fitness. A famous example is the shuttle run. It might be thought that endurance training is not for young children, however, through the programme Sophie learnt that endurance can be trained and improved at a young age. The shuttle run, a performance test, was made at the beginning and after some weeks of specific and children-adapted endurance training during the sport lessons. She was surprised by how much their endurance had improved.
Sophie knows that the programme is not the miracle solution to combat obesity. However, it is a small and easy step that can be integrated into daily life and improves children’s health by making them aware of the benefits of moving by moving.
Are you interested in implementing this kind of programme where you live to help children move more at school?
Chloé Joray is a 4th year medical student at the University of Bern (Switzerland) and also a member of Students and Junior Doctors SSGSM/SSMS. She practiced athletics for more than ten years and is now an amateur runner. As a sport lover, she aspires to promote physical activity and health around her through her future medical activity. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to contribute to the “Swiss Junior Doctors and Undergraduate Perspective on Sport and Exercice Medicine” Blog Series please email email@example.com further information.
- Übergewicht und Adipositas: Bundesamt für Gesundheit; 2018 [updated 24.05.2018. Available from: 1.https://www.bag.admin.ch/bag/de/home/themen/mensch-gesundheit/koerpergewicht-bewegung/koerpergewicht/uebergewicht-und-adipositas.html.
- Hills AP, Andersen LB, Byrne NM. Physical activity and obesity in children. British journal of sports medicine. 2011;45(11):866-70.
- fit4future[Available from: http://www.fit-4-future.ch/fr/.