Teaching children about health through football


Since 2016, many schools in Denmark have been using an innovative method for teaching children about health – through football.


For over four years, more than 25,000 pupils aged 10 to 13 have been taught using this method.

And the initiative is working well, according to questionnaire responses from over 3,000 schoolchildren who took part in the programme.

In a collaboration between the University of Southern Denmark and the Danish Football Association, the 11-week programme involves giving schoolchildren practical advice on ways of maintaining a healthy lifestyle, while encouraging kids to have a kick about on the football field.

To evaluate the programme’s effectiveness, 3,117 pupils involved in the scheme were asked to fill out questionnaires before and after taking part in the initiative.

The aim was to determine their knowledge about health and understanding their experience of the programme.

And the scheme appears to have proved a winner, according to the findings published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Participant responses showed that the children’s knowledge about health increased in the areas of diet, exercise, hygiene and well-being to a greater extent than the control group.

And certain key areas saw a difference of more than 10 percentage points.

“The idea that children learn best if they can connect the learning to relevant activities is not new, but it’s rare for such large studies to be carried out in real-world schools, and with such unambiguous results,” said lead author and University of Southern Denmark assistant professor Malte Nejst Larsen.

Another notable finding was that girls rated the programme just as highly as boys, despite the fact that girls generally had considerably less experience of football than the boys.

“It is great that (the programme) is able to have a broad reach and spark an interest in football in all children – both boys and girls, beginners and experienced players,” said Danish Football Association vice president Bent Clausen.

According to the study authors, the results demonstrate that it’s possible to combine health learning with exercise that is fun, motivational and inclusive for all children – even those with very little experience of sport.

Although the programme was launched well before the onset of Covid-19, the researchers are even more pleased with the results in light of current challenges around health, fitness, physical activity and well-being. – AFP Relaxnews

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