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Less emphasis on the body could be key for more PE

A new approach to physical education (PE) in schools could encourage greater participation and improve adolescents’ physical and emotional health, according to researchers.

Dr Fiona Brooks and Josefine Magnusson at the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Research in Primary & Community Care (CRIPACC) explored the experiences of 31 self-identified, formerly ‘PE adverse’14-15 year old boys and girls who had made the transition from inactivity to active participation in PE.

The paper stated: “Consideration of the views of adolescents, who have made the transition away from inactivity, provided a means of exploring the contribution of school-based PE as a health promotion strategy for young people.”

The teenagers were students in a secondary school in an area of significant deprivation which had, in the previous 18 months, made alterations in the delivery of PE. The school had moved from a scenario of almost non-existent participation in PE across the year to a situation where only three to four students remained as non-participants.

The students were interviewed by the researchers to establish what measures had appealed to them most.

The researchers found that a programme which emphasised the importance of participation and the social aspects of sports rather than physical superiority and sporting excellent assisted students in making the transition from inactivity to activity.

Dr Brooks said: “The findings of this study concur with previous research that, a PE programme which is intensively involved in the surveillance of young peoples’ bodies and exclusively prioritises successful performance, creates a physically marginalised subgroup of non-participants.”

The research paper entitled Taking part counts: adolescents’ experiences of the transition from inactivity to active participation in school-based physical education was published in Health Education Research.

Helene Murphy | alfa
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