A simple way to get kids moving at school: change their uniforms
You know you’re more likely to get active when you’re in your activewear than when you’re in your work clothes — and the same is likely to hold true for kids.
Primary schoolchildren say they’d be more active if permitted to wear their sports uniform rather than their standard uniform, according to a University of Newcastle study.
As every parent knows (or as you remember from your school days), the standard school uniform consists of black leather-style shoes, pants or shorts and a shirt for boys, and a dress or tunic with socks or stockings for girls.
A sports uniform is typically shorts, a T-shirt or collared polo shirt, and joggers or other sports shoes — clothes less restrictive and more practical to move around in.
The researchers surveyed 832 students in grades four, five and six from the Hunter region in New South Wales to explore their uniform preferences.
“A large majority of children said yes, they’d be more active if allowed to wear their sports uniform every day,” study co-author Dr Nicole Nathan told Coach.
The pen-and-paper survey found older children were more likely to say they’d prefer to wear a sports uniform every day, and more likely to say it would make them more active during breaks.
“Physical activity declines as students age, so that was a particularly salient point,” noted Nathan, a postdoctoral research fellow with the University of Newcastle’s School of Medicine and Public Health.
Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the paper added that all schools involved in the study had a policy dictating pupils could only wear their sports uniform on sports days.
Nathan said the next step will be putting the finding into practice — testing whether children really are more active when permitted to wear their sports uniforms every day.
A global report card issued last week graded Australian children a dismal D-minus on their overall physical activity, the third time in a row kids have scored so poorly.
The new research points to a simple, inexpensive way to improve that grade and encourage children to be more active at school — which Nathan acknowledges is particularly tough given how “crowded” the curriculum already is.
Many schools already implement energiser breaks where children are encouraged to be active for short periods, and other University of Newcastle studies have successfully tested integrated lessons than mix physical activity into maths lessons.
“It’s not about trying to find more time [to be active], because there is no more time, but trying to give students opportunities to be active throughout the day,” Nathan said.
Her research has deep personal significance — not only does she have a background as a P.E. schoolteacher, she also has two daughters aged eight and 10.
She believes one of the biggest struggles for parents is combating screen time, which she says is “a constant battle” with her own children.
“A lot of the evidence [points to] putting rules around screen time and encouraging children to get active instead,” she says. “And the best way to get your kids to get active is to be active with them.”