The European Week of Sport, promoted between September 23 and 30, was launched in 2015 by the European Commission, and was created mainly in response to the rising incidence of sedentary living across all age groups.

Research in the field of physical activity has shown this “crisis” is adversely affecting young children, resulting in reduced quality of basic motor skills and stunted physical literacy development. The latest Malta Childhood National Body Mass Index Study showed that approximately 40 per cent of school-aged children are obese or overweight.

The latest Malta Childhood National Body Mass Index Study showed that approximately 40% of school-aged children are obese or overweight

In light of this worrying statistic, schools have a vital role to play, not only in promoting healthy living and educating students about healthy eating, but also to actively embrace programmes through which children can increase their participation in physical activity within school hours.

It was in this context that the Fun Fit 5 pilot-project was conceived as a branch of the Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation (IFF), spearheaded by Ivan Woods (head of Grassroots Development) and Mark Gatt (Football in Schools coordinator) on behalf of the Malta FA. The terms ‘fun’ and ‘fit’ represent the original fundamental guiding principles underlying the project series, with the number five representing the goal of physical activity participation not less than five days a week.

The programme will involve five, 45-minute sessions per week, with Year 4 students, in three Maltese government schools. Researchers will investigate in what ways, if any, the daily physical activity programme affects the children across the academic, physical and psychological well-being domains.

Each physical activity session will be carried out at moderate to vigorous intensity and contributes to 75 per cent of the overall average of 60 minutes per day recommended by the World Health Organisation. The sessions will be delivered by three coaches representing the IFF: Franco Agius, Philip Attard and Nicole Sciberras. Their work will help address the recommendations of the National Audits Office that schools should place greater emphasis on the quality of structured physical activities.

The research team working in conjunction with the IFF is comprised of four researchers from the Institute of Community Services at the Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology: Melanie Darmanin, Renzo Kerr-Cumbo, Matthew Muscat Inglott and Heathcliff Schembri.

Their research, which is essentially structured as a large-scale experimental study, will test for measurable effects of the physical activity programme on the children physically, academically and psychologically, as well as explore challenges and benefits from the unique perspectives of students, parents/legal guardians, coaches and members of staff themselves. Karl Attard from the Malta FA will be assisting the researchers throughout.

The FF5 pilot-project which was launched at a press conference on October 1, was addressed by the Minister for Education, Sport, Youth, Research and Innovation Clifton Grima, Malta FA general secretary Angelo Chetcuti and MCAST principal James Calleja. Gareth Sciberras, chairperson for Inħobb il-Futbol Foundation, was among the distinguished guests and gave additional details about the FF5 programme, along with the rationale behind it.

The education officer for physical education in schools, Marvin Spiteri, elaborated on the logistics of the FF5 programme, and described the selection process for the three participating schools. Melanie Darmanin finally gave a thorough explanation of the research study itself.

The FF5 pilot programme, which will commence in the selected schools this month, ultimately aspires to bring about “winds of change” through its innovative and evidence-based approach, in the way physical activity is understood, prioritised and organised in Maltese schools.

Sign up to our free newsletters

Get the best updates straight to your inbox:
Please select at least one mailing list.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By subscribing, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.