The Punjab minister for schools education has put forward a sensible idea in suggesting that physical activity at all government schools be increased dramatically, with at least two physical education lessons in the week. He has pointed out that this is important for the physical wellbeing of the children and also to encourage an interest in healthy sports which should be promoted at the union, tehsil, district and regional level. Actual action to carry forward this idea would be of enormous benefit to children. Recent studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics as well as other studies highlight that physical activity can aid academic performance. The studies also say that every child under 18 should be engaging in an hour of physical activity each day. This can take many different forms and does not necessarily mean organised sport.
In a country where the rate of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension is amongst the highest in the world, there can be no doubt however that sport can be of enormous benefit to people preventing diseases which damage the quality of life and eat away massive chunk from the health budget. The emphasis on sports that existed in public-sector schools in past decades needs to be revived. The lack of playing fields or suitable space does of course present challenges in many cases. However, there are sporting activities which can be carried out in very limited spaces; games such as table tennis come to mind. The important thing is to introduce the idea of regular activity to children across the country and to build a cadre of physical education teachers who can play a role in teaching sport, developing talent and offering young people new opportunities to gain fitness and confidence as well as team spirit and the other benefits that come with sports. Schools are the right place to begin this effort.