Why is sport Benefits to children?Physical activity has both short-term and long-term benefits on children's health. For children and adolescents to physically develop in an optimal manner, they need to practice a variety of sports, each, if possible for a long period of time. These activities should be practiced many times a week and should have the following objectives:
•Strengthening the bones by practicing activities that apply weight to them. For example, swimming, running, jumping and hopping particularly in appropriate games.
•Stimulating the cardiovascular system by practicing sports that enhance endurance, such as jogging, swimming or skiing (cross-country) in appropriate games, or daily activities like riding the bike.
•Strengthening the muscles by practicing a variety of sports such as mountain climbing, and suspensions, sports that use the body's own weight or specific weight lifting exercises for adolescents after making sure they were well instructed.
•Maintaining flexibility by practicing gymnastics and stretching in sports, in daily life or in the form of appropriate games.
•Improving skills with a variety of sports and with specific exercises during games, sports or daily life.
•The most important short-term effect is that sports help fight obesity in children, an illness that is becoming more widespread since 1980 (Flegal 1999). Not only obese children risk staying obese throughout their adulthood, but the sooner it happens the more likely it will remain until adulthood (Med Watch 2000). Moreover, the early apparitions of obesity will result in other ailments that won't appear until adulthood, such as diabetes type II, that we nowadays observe in children.
•The benefits of practicing organized sports seem to affect more than the physical condition of a child. Studies have shown that young active children are less likely to manifest sedentary behavior (Thorlindsson 1999). Team sports can provide a healthy environment for a child where he can adapt and develop. For example, researchers studying hyperactive children with an attention deficit in a sports camp, have noticed that with a low intensity intervention comprising of sessions of education and positive reinforcement would unmistakably result in positive outcomes (Hupp et Reitman 1999).
•Personality characteristics, such as achievement, motivation, self-confidence, independence, and one's perceived ability to be active (ie, self-efficacy), are also associated with physical activity levels (Reynold et al. 1990).It has also been suggested that physical activity, particularly sports participation, may affect the development of self-esteem in adolescents (Sonstroem 1984).
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Physical activity & inactivity in children & adolescentPrevious research has demonstrated that most children are largely sedentary. Using data from the Muscatine Study, Janz et al. (1992) found that pubertal and postpubertal children spend only 8 to 10 minutes per day in aerobic activity. Livingstone and colleagues (1992) also showed that girls aged 7 to 15 years spend, on average, 8 to 10 minutes per day in vigorous physical activity, while boys of the same age spend approximately 30 minutes per day in vigorous activity. Determinants of levels of childhood physical activity are complex. It is now widely accepted that family, peers, and school affect physical activity levels in children (Taylor et al. 1994). Access to physical activities, such as the location of parks and schools, and opportunities to participate in games or sports are also factors affecting sports involvement (Greendorfer and Ewing 1981). Similarly, parents who play with their children regularly and provide transportation to activities have more-active children (Sallis et al. 1992).
Overall children spend more than 10 hours each day in sedentary behavior. In contrast, children were involved in vigorous physical activity only 12 to 13 minutes per day. These data also demonstrate a significant decline in physical activity as children progress through adolescence. In particular, girls have a significant decrease in physical activity levels between ages 10 and 16 years. Similar decreases in physical activity between the 6th and 12th grades have been previously described in schoolchildren (Wolf et al. 1993)
Sedentary time was equally divided among viewing television, sitting at the computer, and doing homework. It is no surprise that increased levels of sedentary behaviors were associated with decreased levels of physical activity (Robinson et al 1993, Dietz and Gortmaker 1993). Therefore, children who spend less time in sedentary behaviors will spend more time in moderate-level activity, such as playing, while not necessarily participating in high-level activity, such as sports.
In Lebanon, few studies were interested in estimating the physical activity in children and teenagers (Hwalla et cal 2005, Fazah et call. 2010). Fazah et al. (2010) find that girls teenagers practice less sports than boys. Hwalla et al. (2005) confirm that Lebanon will not become a country where the physical activity is encouraged and easily applicable. In fact, very few public schools have a physical education program and the necessary infrastructure (public parks, running fields) is rare and only accessible to the richer population.
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The role of schools in enhancing physical activity
The physical education session improves a child's self esteemMany studies have shown that the physical education session in schools play a huge part in encouraging children to practice a certain physical activity through improving their self esteem and motivation. Thus, developing a child's self esteem is an essential goal in all educational programs. For example, the British physical education program (Department of education and sciences, 1989). The concept of self esteem was tackled in the last few years with a multidimensional and hierarchical approach that consists of different dimensions: social, academic, physical, etc. In the physical dimension, it was suggested that the feeling of physical self worth results in impressions about the self in terms of competence, physical condition, physical look and power. The scores concerning the estimation of one's own physical self worth are related to those of elementary scales (the perception of the physical competence, physical condition, physical look and power), especially in 12 to 14 year old children. The analysis of multiple regressions in 14 year old boys has shown that 44.9% of the variance in estimating one's own physical value is due to the physical condition, but in 14 year old girls, this score is linked to the body aesthetics (39.4% of the explained variance). Moreover, Gruber (1986) has analysed 27 studies and has observed a general effect of an amplitude of 0.41. This means that children who regularly exercise score higher than the control group (0.5 points) in the self esteem score.
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Pleasure during a physical education session and its effect on physical practice outside of school.The methodology of education in schools plays a crucial role in the regularity of physical activities. Therefore, applying pleasurable experiments during a physical activity can have a double effect on a child: the pleasure a child would experience can act as a stimulant to continuously participate in physical activities and will constitute in itself a positive psychological outcome. In fact, Csikszenmihalyi (1975), for example has suggested the idea that when personal capabilities are put to test in an optimal manner, the pleasure will be more intense, which is strongly correlated with the feelings of self motivation and personal control. The research of Biddel et Goudas (1994), on the pleasure experienced by children in relation with the application of physical education is based on three approaches. - The 1st approach show that factors like "health", "physical shape" and "changing the daily scholar routine» contribute essentially in making the subject more enjoyable. - The 2nd approach consists of examining the relationship between the type of orientation of accomplishment and the pleasure felt. In fact, children will feel a higher sense of general satisfaction when they practice a kind of sport that has an objective of personal improvement and that is task oriented. Especially if they consider that the success in a sport is mainly due to effort and cooperation. And vice versa, the feeling of satisfaction is not ego oriented: it is not related to the concept of success in terms of demonstrating superiority over others or victory. - The 3rd approach is based on the fact that the pleasure felt depends on the child's perception of the group's climate. Results have shown that students that perceive that their class has a strong atmosphere of control feel more satisfaction than those who consider that their class has an atmosphere of performance. Moreover, a stronger satisfaction can be caused by an atmosphere of pure control, or control and performance at the same time.
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The role of schools in encouraging children to practice sportsIt is not enough to analyze healthy practices; one should know how to promote children's participation in physical activity. The matter at hand is how to prepare children to become active adults, and not only how to keep children in good shape on the short run. (Dishmanet coll. 1985), has shown that preoccupation in health can motivate adults to participate in a physical program at first, but the feeling of well being and satisfaction are necessary to be able to maintain this physical activity. Children are probably concern-free. They participate in a physical activity for the simple pleasure that it gives them, the social reinforcement or other gratification that is immediately tangible. Research in the domain of children's participation in sports in North America has shown that factors like "amusement", "excitement" and "skills development" are more important than social and extrinsic factors like "pleasing the coach" and "winning" (Wankel et Kreisel, 1985). The self motivation seems to be an important factor in promoting physical activity in children. This self motivation comes from personal orientation to control a specific task.
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Public Health Implications of schoolsSchools worldwide provide unique existing community infrastructures because they serve a large number of children and adolescents year round, have facilities and equipment, as well as staff who either have expertise or can be given training to teach the skills and benefits of lifelong physical activity (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1996, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1997, WHO 1996, Kannas and al. 1992 ).
The new Guidelines for School and Community Programs to Promote Lifelong Physical Activity Among Young People (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 1997) lists ten recommendations for school and community programs to promote physical activity. These include policy, environment, physical education classes, health education curricula, extracurricular activities, parental involvement, and community programs as well as other areas. Under extracurricular activities there is a recommendation to link schools and students to community physical activity programs and to develop effective systems for referring youth from schools to community agencies. Since some findings indicate that over 80% of physical activity occurs outside of school PE programs, 25 resources and linkages to the community are important. PE classes can teach behavioral skills and foster participation in community-based organized programs and sports. Family programs are important as well as policy implementation, environmental changes, and resource allocations by governmental agencies and organizations (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1996, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention1997, Pate and al.)
A recent review by Kohl and Hobbs (1998) summarized factors related to youth and physical activity behaviors including some of the following important points: (1) activity levels have seasonal variation with the highest levels in summer and lowest in the winter; (2) children are more-active on weekends than during the week; and (3) time outdoors is related to more activity. Godin and Shepard (1986) reported that among junior high school students attitudes toward physical activity, prior experience in physical activity, and current activity habits contribute significantly to the intention to exercise. In addition, results from Swedish teenagers suggest that those who had more experience with physical activity and sports prior to age 15 had a higher psychological readiness for physical activity at 30 years of age (Emgstrom 1991).
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Recommendations for Public Health Practice- Establish school policies and environments to provide space, equipment, and supervision for before and after school and lunch and recess periods to promote physical activity.
- Provide appropriate resources for more emphasis on mastery of fundamental skills in children, since these are essential for exercising choices for leisure-time activities across the lifespan.
- Introduce more intramural and extramural activities that direct more resources to programs that service all students.
- Promote more programs and resources for family participation and opportunities for physical activity through school and community programs.
- Increase attention by community organizations and agencies to noncompetitive sports and recreational activities in order to meet the needs of a variety of youth, with special attention to preadolescent and adolescent girls.
- Increase training opportunities for teachers at the college-preparation stage, as well as after they are employed in the field, on the fundamentals and importance of physical activity.
- Provide more school-community linked physical activity programs that meet the needs and interests of girls as well as boys.
- Increase efforts to institutionalize programs shown to be effective, so that they are a routine part of school programs, policies, and resource allocations.
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Role of parents in encouraging & choosing the right physical activityDefinitely, the feelings of satisfaction and pleasure are probably the mains factors that influence a child's decision in practicing a physical activity (Matens 1996), but the environment of the family also has an impact. In fact, the family can strongly influence a child's desire to participate in an organized physical activity, and its support motivates the child to continue during childhood and adolescence (Martin et al. 1999). In other words, parents that communicate to their children the importance and value of a physical activity will be able to positively influence them on the long run. For example, in 1998, approximately 54 % of canadian children ( 5 - 14 years) that live in biparental or in a single-parent families - almost 2,2 millions - regularly practice an organized physical activity. Moreover, 48% of those active children have practiced more than one activity during the year. It is important to mention that a general social survey in Canada (Offord et coll. 1998) showed that soccer (31%), swimming (24%) and hockey (24%) are the most popular sports in children aged from 5 to 14 years old.
Moreover, the structure of the family influences the children's participation in an organized sport, because it is obviously easier to share responsibilities when there are two parents. In addition to the factors mentioned above, there is also one important factor, if parents practice physical activities, their children will be more likely to practice sports themselves. In fact, this study indicates that only 36% of children are active if their parents are not active.
In conclusion, the results indicate that the probability of children practicing a sport improves constantly starting 7 years old. Moreover, the parents' activities and income are essential predictors of their children's participation in an organized sport.
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