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Physical literacy: Why should we embrace this construct?

An additional concern is that there has been a decrease in physical education programmes, an increase in early sport-specialisation and a greater focus on elite sport programmes, which have all led to fewer opportunities to teach fundamental motor skills and develop physical competence, decreased participation for all levels of athletes (regardless of ability or experience), a secular trend of increasingly sedentary lifestyles and associated negative psychological outcomes (ie, anxiety and depression) leading to an increased risk of injury in our young population.6 As a solution, physical literacy and its core elements of motor skill, positive affect, motivation and behaviour can help support children to be active and maintain physical activity across the life course (figure 1).5 Figure 1. SHAPE America, the national physical education organisation for the USA, has already taken the bold step by incorporating physical literacy into each of their national standards.1 3 As outlined by Cairney et al, physical literacy can provide a powerful framework from which to view movement in relation to its fundamental skill elements, the environmental context in which those movements occur and the positive affective elements that produce lasting connections of movement experiences to positive psychological states.5 Therefore, in spanning the age groups throughout a lifespan, physical literacy is not considered a skill, but rather ‘a disposition to use experience, understanding and abilities to interact effectively within the world’.7 This holistic approach of understanding the mind–body connection and addressing the spectrum of all ages is not new to the profession, but we are clearly seeing a renewed emphasis on overall health and well-being for the full lifespan.7 Increases in obesity and physical inactivity indicate that ‘getting people moving’ is critical to the overall health of each nation’s population. […]for the construct of physical literacy to continue its growth, more research beyond the sectors of physical education and sport needs to be stimulated and ‘physically literate societies’ as indicated by Dudley et al need to articulate in their policies how physical literacy can be addressed.8 The healthcare and sports medicine sectors can play an integral role in promoting physical activity for a lifetime and help develop confident and competent movers of all ages and in all environments (land, air, water, snow, ice).