Physical activity programmes in high schools
Across the lifespan physical inactivity represents a key risk to health and well-being; the World Health Organization has estimated that physical inactivity is a major contributing factor in over 1.9 million deaths worldwide and a significant risk factor for the majority of cancers and long term conditions. Physical activity is a key component in the maintenance and attainment of healthy weight; as a consequence the reduction of sedentary lifestyles has featured in many countries as an important arm of policies designed to address childhood obesity. This chapter discusses how participation by young people in physical activity should not solely be seen as a means to address current concerns about childhood obesity; instead physical activity can provide a number of positive benefits that contribute to the well-being of young people. Participation in physical activity can offer a plethora of health benefits, not only impacting positively on physiological health and development but also psychological well-being, including having important social benefits. The relationship between physical activity and emotional and psychological well being is also addressed, as physical activity levels have been found to be one of the key health-related outcomes that is associated with overall life satisfaction among school-aged children. The importance of seeing benefits of activity in context of young people's here and now, rather than having the sole aim of benefiting their future health, has been recognized by the European Heart Health Initiative (2001).