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Are you doing enough to help?

According to new analysis reported this week by Public Health England, 1 in 25 children aged 10 or 11 is said to be ‘severely obese’. Height and weight measurements show the number of children classed as severely overweight rose from 15,000 in reception to 22,000 by the time they leave primary school.

Childhood obesity

The Local Government Association, which analysed Public Health England figures, said action was urgently needed yet, as reported in BBC Online, the Government insisted that its obesity plan was ‘comprehensive’.

An initiative that has been proactive in seeking to lower obesity rates in children is the Change4Life project, which seeks to instill healthy lifestyle habits in children. Sharon Phillips is a school games organiser in the London Borough of Havering and is a senior development coach for the Youth Sport Trust. Since implementing the Change4Life initiative six years ago, Phillips has seen some positive results in the schools she works in. The Havering team has rolled out multi-activity clubs in primary schools for children who are less active or at risk of being obese. The clubs now tend to attract children aged between 6 and 11.

“There are so many pressures on teachers and sometimes they don’t have anyone to run the sessions. Throughout the primary schools that we work with, we have actually launched ‘Change4Life Champions’. This is for those 10 or 11 year olds who have been to the club before and have transitioned through it so they can now run games and activities for the other children. Quite often the children make up their own games; they have brilliant imaginations.”

Havering has linked up with fitness instructors and other individuals within the industry to create a more streamlined approach on how it aims to tackle childhood inactivity. Phillips continues, “I think sports coaches are sometimes the wrong people to call upon. They are very intent on delivering a sports session; the reason why a lot of these children aren’t active or are overweight or obese is because they don’t want to play sport. Playing sport and being physically active are two different things. We need to inspire children to be physically active whether it’s walking, swimming, jogging or playing games. I haven’t come across many children who don’t want to do something.”

Branching out seems to be key to making this project successful in your area – the team in Havering came up with the ‘Change4Life Challenge Club’, an after-school club for parents and children that ran for 10 weeks. A programme was put together for physical activity, healthy eating and for whole families. According to Phillips, there are still some places whereby fitness isn’t being linked; coming from a fitness instructor background herself, Philips certainly practices what she preaches.

For parting advice, Phillips advises trainers to source out the links where possible and to make contact with their local school games organiser. “Primary schools have got an awful lot of money ring-fenced for PE and school sports for another year. I say, why not work with fitness instructors? Instructors should make contact with individuals at local primary schools, do a bit of research, and see how you can get involved.”

 Change4Life impact

 Change4Life sports clubs have a wider impact on young people and lead to positive outcomes, as follows:

  • Increased levels of physical activity

More than 41,000 additional children are now meeting national recommended levels of physical activity

There has been a 67% increase in the number of children achieving 60 active minutes a day

  • Improved understanding of healthy lifestyles

Change4Life sports clubs have been used as part of a holistic approach to tackling broader healthy lifestyle behaviours and positive behaviour change

Well-being and individual development has increased significantly, with participants reporting enhanced social and emotional skills and attributes

  • Improved participation in PE and sports

Change4Life sports clubs provide excellent value for money and clearly support public health priorities

It costs only £305 for every new child meeting the national recommendations for physical activity, and a further 2.2 children are lifted out of ‘low-activity’ levels, which represents significant value for money

Participants in Change4Life sports clubs are predicted to do around an hour more physical activity a week at ages 13-15 than a control group and today’s 13-15 year olds

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