Welcome to ESA program

Enriched Sport Activities Program

The addresses the objective concerning the promotion of Social Values of Sport, in particular  Enriched Sport Activities Programhealth, social inclusion, equal opportunities and improvement of motivation to engage in sport activities, as stated in the priorities of “Work Plan of Sport” adopted by EU Sport Ministers for the three years 2011-2014 and with the “2nd Work Plan for Sport” for the years 2014-2017. Also the Dissemination of project’s activities and results is being planned by taking into account a key principle established by the above cited Plans and by the HEPA – expert group recommendation to create valuable interactions with the sport sector, local authorities and the private sector. This is because the main goal of the project is to enhance social inclusion and motivation to sport and physical activity in different countries of the European Union. A growing body of studies has identified sport and Physical Activities (PA) as key factors to contribute to well-being and health in children and youths with typical and atypical development (Alesi et al., 2014a). It is becoming increasingly clear that a sedentary lifestyle shows a risk for enlarged rates of psychosocial impairments, onset or aggravation of medical diseases, welfare assistance, use of medical services, all resulting in extremely high economic health costs. Consequently, sport intervention programs are increasingly employed in risky situations to enhance quality of life, health, equal opportunities and social inclusion for participants (minors, women, population with sociocultural disadvantage or special needs). Despite the widely acknowledged benefits of physical activity in social and individual domains, a sedentary lifestyle in children and youths is documented as well as physical inactivity in developmental age is a growing concern among European countries. The JPI Healthy Diet for Healthy Life UE-277673 project is a clear and good example of how even the EU is investing on that direction. Consequently, a growing interest for practitioners and researchers aims at investigating facilitators and barriers that increase or reduce the likelihood of participation in sport and physical activities.

However results are still not scientifically defined. Many features of physical fitness such as body composition, maximal oxygen uptake, flexibility and speed are genetically determined. So biological processes regulate behaviours aimed at regulating the amount of activity suitable for each individual. Nevertheless, this predisposition is largely conditioned by psychosocial factors related to the family and the social context such as school that create the environmental conditions to realize the genetic predisposition in physical activity.

In this context the Youth Physical Activity Promotion (YPAP) designed by Welk (1999) paints both intra-and extra-individual factors which influence children’s physical activity falling into three main groups: personal, familiar and environmental variables (Moore et al., 2010; Hume et al., 2005).

Family variables are considered one of the most important factors because parents and siblings widely influence the choice of social and physical activities and stimulate children’s participation in PA by acting as barrier at the same time. Specifically, family factors influence the amount, the duration and the complexity of sport activities in typically and atypically developing children by providing adequate scaffolding during collaborative performances as well as stimulating the sense of competence and the mastery motivation needed to cope challenging physical tasks. Parental beliefs concerning PA benefits in children health linked to emotional support determine the role of family to decrease or limit their children’s participation to sport activities (Alesi et al. 2014b). Moreover crucial factors are linked to environmental and social factors such as their lack of time in everyday life, the difficulties of transportation or their economical situation. These factors are reinforced by poor and low socioeconomic status (SES) measured by education, income, occupational status, family size. In the psychosocial perspective, this is a factor belonging to the macrosystem dimension because it’s distal and external to the individual, but it also exerts influence on children’s physical behaviours. It’s widely demonstrated and acknowledged that lower SES determines unequal access to sport and physical activities (Bianco et al., 2008). Moreover the effect of SES seems to interact with gender. Specifically, lower SES girls show to engage less in sport and to be less physically fit (Donnelly and Harvey, 2007). Relationship between sport, SES and gender has been largely investigated in adults but only recently has been focused in childhood and youth.

The project addresses the objective of social values of sport, in particular health, physical fitness, social inclusion and improvement of sport motivation, by implementing an intervention program to carry out through the involvement of children typically developing and with special needs as well as their parents.

The intervention will carry out through two ways. The first is parents’ involvement and education on cognitive, motivational and social benefits of PA in childhood. The second is children and youths participation in Enriched Sport Activities (ESA) Program; an integrated sport program in which sport activities for typical children, such as soccer, track and field, swimming, handball and APA for children with special needs will be enriched with cognitive tasks aimed at improving executive functions as working memory, planning and inhibition processes. The age ranging 6-14 years was chosen because children’s physical activity levels are acknowledged to decrease over this stage, but also because this is a critical phase to address precautionary intervention programs aimed at stimulating an active lifestyle able to prevent inactivity (Brockman, Jago & Fox, 2011).