During the PREVENT Consortium meeting in Barcelona, Spain the Generalitat de Catalunya Agència de Salut Pública de Catalunya gave us insights on their efforts to promote physical activity and improve the health of children and adolescents in Catalonia. These interventions will be proposed to the Catalan Community of Practice (CoP) as part of possible actions to be included in the PREVENT Living Lab pilots.

Why is the promotion of physical activity so important? In Catalunya, almost four out of ten children aged 6 to 12 (38.9%) have excess body weight (overweight or obesity) with a significant social gradient. 32,4% of people aged 3 to 14 participate in active leisure activities and 45.8% of people aged 3 to 14 practice sedentary leisure activities. Sedentarism is the fourth risk factor for mortality worldwide.

In order to counteract this negative trend, Catalonia has proposed four interventions: The Daily Mile (TDM), ‘Active Breaks! On the move in the classroom’, ‘The School Menu Review Program’ and ‘Prevention and management of childhood obesity in the neighbourhood La Mina’. The two first interventions are presented in more detail below. The TDM is an intervention focusing on physical activity that promotes social, emotional, and mental well-being, alongside improvements in physical fitness. TDM takes place outdoors during the school day at a time chosen by the teacher. The children leave the classroom for a 15-minute interval daily, engaging in either a brisk walk or run. TDM’s appeal lies in its straightforwardness and accessibility. It does not require any equipment and the students can take part wearing their regular clothes.

Some of the benefits of The Daily Mile include improvements in bone health and muscle strength in children, enhancing fitness and improving heart health, and reducing body fat as well as promoting healthy body composition. In Catalunya, there are currently 37 registered schools participating in the movement. If you want to join the movement, you can get more information here. The second proposed intervention for the Catalunya area is Active breaks! On the move in the classroom. Active breaks mean short periods of physical activity in the classroom. The objective is to diminish students’ inactive periods during school hours by fostering a positive perspective on physical activity. This initiative aims to amplify daily energy expenditure through brief physical activities lasting between 5 and 10 minutes, strategically designed to integrate with curricular content. These activities are tailored to suit confined spaces such as classrooms, ensuring flexibility in implementation throughout the day.

The short active breaks have a variety of benefits and help children improve self-regulation and academic performance, increase their strength and flexibility and potentially decrease use of ADHD medication along with many other positive results. There are two types of activities: mini-relax and mini-challenge activities. Mini-relax activities allow the level of student activation to decrease. They are recommended to lower the level of activation (after the playground or in the last hours of the morning, or when the teacher considers it appropriate) whereas mini-challenge activities allow one to increase the level of physical activity through competition against time, or against oneself, as a motivational tool.

Active breaks are strategically employed by the teacher based on factors such as the time of day, students’ level of engagement, and the subject matter being covered. These breaks offer opportunities for various activities aligned with the lesson content or alternative tasks, enabling students to temporarily disengage from the primary activity and return to it with renewed focus and attention.

Catalonia’s initiatives to promote physical activity among youth are vital in combating sedentary lifestyles and addressing obesity. With an increasing number of children affected by excess body weight, interventions like TDM and Active Breaks offer simple yet effective solutions. By integrating these practices into daily routines, Catalonia sets a positive example for fostering lifelong habits of physical activity and overall well-being. Let’s continue to support and spread such initiatives throughout Europe for a healthier future.

If you would like to stay up to date and keep informed about PREVENT’s achievements, sign up for our newsletter here!