Professor Mike Weed, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise discusses if sport investment is harming public health.
Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise, explores whether promoting sport participation is the answer to combating the rise in obesity.
Today is World Obesity Day and the World Obesity Federation is claiming that if current trends continue, the number of obese adults worldwide will rise from 2 billion to 2.7 billion by 2025.
This year’s World Obesity Day is calling for ‘urgent government action to end childhood obesity’, with the President of the World Obesity Federation claiming that ‘doing nothing is not an option’ and the Federation highlighting that four in five young people fail to get sufficient physical activity.
One of the responses of the UK government has been its recent sport strategy, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, in which government intervention in sport participation through Sport England is extended to 5-14 year olds. In introducing the strategy, the Minister for Sport claims that ‘the impact that sport has… has never been more important when we are battling with growing levels of obesity’. This, however, is a flawed rationale for investment in sport participation.
Among adults the last ten year’s investment in raising sport participation, including an investment of over £1bn across the last five year cycle, has not changed the number of adults participating in sport once a week by more than +/- 1% from 35% of the population. In the same period, the number of adults who are physically active for 30 minutes or more on at least five days each week has risen by more than a fifth to 38% of the population. This clearly shows that, despite considerable investment in sport, people are choosing ways, other than sport, by which to become active.
As a response to a call for action to end childhood obesity, extending to 5-14 year olds the remit of government investment and intervention in sport that has not shifted sport participation in adults by more than +/- 1% in ten years seems a little more than inadequate. In fact, contrary to the call of the President of the World Obesity Federation, perhaps doing nothing would be a better option than investing in sport as an unproven vehicle to increase physical activity, let alone tackle obesity. Put simply: that obesity is a problem is not evidence that sport is the solution.
Professor Mike Weed is Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at Canterbury Christ Church University. His research for the Department of Health and the Department for Education has helped inform physical activity policy for young people.
Today, MPs have given their support to the idea of England adopting an official national anthem. Dr Mark Uphill, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology in the School of Human and Life Sciences, comments on whether he thinks changing the national anthem will impact players’ performance.
Standing to one side of the political debate about a new national anthem, from the perspective of performance enhancement, the ceremonial music that is played is something that athletes have little control over. There is research to suggest that music pre-competition can influence performance, and this is particularly important where individuals (e.g. in a football team) could select music that they would prefer to listen to in the dressing room.
With the current anthem, you see quite a varied reaction among athletes in how they manage that period of their performance preparation, and I see little reason why that would change should there be a new anthem.
The very best athletes are very good at attaining a psychological state that improves the likelihood of a successful performance, and opportunities for athletes to imagine themselves hearing and reacting to a new anthem, should there be one, would be a way to help them prepare effectively, and to manage their emotional response.
I have seen today that the England Commonwealth Games Team has tweeted a survey and it will be interesting to see what athletes’ preferences for the anthem might be.
Dr Uphill’s research has historically been directed towards understanding the intra-personal consequences and regulation of emotions in sport. He currently sits on the British Psychological Society’s Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology committee and Behaviour Change Advisory Group.
Sports Minister, Tracy Crouch, this week announced the government’s new sport strategy: Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation, which aims to redefine what sport success is with a focus on physical and mental wellbeing.
Mike Weed, Professor of Applied Policy Sciences and Head of the School of Human and Life Sciences at Canterbury Christ Church University, questions the potential success of the new strategy.