Ed­u­ca­tionMATTERS How to get the kids to be more ac­tive


Glossop Advertiser - - Education Matters -

FTER help­ing present the BBC cov­er­age of the World Ath­let­ics Cham­pi­onships, for­mer hep­tath­lete Denise Lewis has turned her at­ten­tion to some­thing even more im­por­tant – get­ting the na­tion’s chil­dren ac­tive.

The Olympic gold medal­list has joined forces with Change4Life, Sport Eng­land and Dis­ney to en­cour­age kids to try ‘10 Minute Shake Up’, a series of 10-minute games and ac­tiv­i­ties to help them work to­wards the 60 min­utes of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity it’s rec­om­mended chil­dren do ev­ery day.

At the mo­ment, just 23 per cent of boys and 20 per cent of girls meet this rec­om­mended ac­tiv­ity tar­get, and one in five chil­dren starts pri­mary school over­weight or obese – ris­ing to more than a third by the time they leave.

Mum-of-three Denise, who won hep­tathlon gold at the 2000 Syd­ney Olympics, says: “Be­ing ac­tive isn’t just for Olympians, it’s some­thing that ev­ery­one – no mat­ter their age, abil­ity or in­ter­ests – can and should take part in.

“It’s alarm­ing so few boys and girls are hit­ting their phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity tar­get, so we want to kick­start chil­dren into be­ing more ac­tive.

“The fo­cus is run­ning, jump­ing, throw­ing, catch­ing and co­or­di­na­tion – the ba­sics, hence why I got in­volved, as ob­vi­ously those are things I know very well.” The ‘10 Minute Shake Ups’ of­fer fun ac­tiv­i­ties in­spired by an ar­ray of Dis­ney char­ac­ters. “The ac­tiv­i­ties are very sim­ple and the whole fam­ily can get mov­ing to­gether,” ex­plains Denise, 44. Denise tries the Shake Ups her­self in a short video in which she’s coached mer­ci­lessly by a seven-year-old girl. “The kids in the video wore me out,” says the sporty mum, who has a daugh­ter aged 15 and two boys, aged eight and 11. “As a mum, I know how im­por­tant be­ing a role model is to keep­ing my fam­ily ac­tive and healthy. Right from the get-go with my chil­dren they’ve seen me go­ing for a run, be­ing part of ath­let­ics, do­ing cir­cuits, and it’s al­most like os­mo­sis. “It’s eas­ier with a sporty par­ent, chil­dren will usu­ally fol­low suit.” A sur­vey by Pub­lic Health Eng­land and Dis­ney found 57 per cent of chil­dren said they were more likely to be ac­tive if their par­ents were – al­though the main mo­ti­va­tion for kids was hav­ing friends join in (53 per cent).

“It’s alarm­ing so few boys and girls are hit­ting their phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity tar­get, so we want to kick­start chil­dren into be­ing more ac­tive”

Denise Lewis

“Sporty par­ents will en­cour­age their chil­dren to be ac­tive,” says Denise. “The real chal­lenge is chil­dren who don’t have ac­tive par­ents – how do you get those guys in­volved as well?” Denise sug­gests the key is to make ac­tiv­ity easy at first, hence the bite­size, 10-minute chunks par­ents can join in with – play­ing sim­ple bal­loon games, for ex­am­ple.

“Just 10 min­utes sounds do-able to any­body. You can fit it into your day and, if you’re en­joy­ing it, per­haps you’ll build it up and be­fore you know it the kids have hit the tar­get of an hour a day.

“You re­alise that just get­ting the heart rate in­creased is do­ing ev­ery­one’s bod­ies the world of good.” Ac­tiv­ity also helps psy­cho­log­i­cally. The sur­vey found be­ing ac­tive made the ma­jor­ity of those aged five to 11 feel hap­pier (79 per cent), more con­fi­dent (72 per cent), and more so­cia­ble (74 per cent).

And while Denise ad­mits it would be “fan­tas­tic” if the 10 Minute Shake-Ups put chil­dren on the path to be­com­ing top ath­letes, that’s not re­ally what the pro­gramme’s about.

“If we get an Olympian out of this, I would love it,” she says, “but this is about the big­ger pic­ture of hav­ing ex­er­cise and ac­tiv­ity as part of your life­style.”

And 17 years af­ter win­ning Olympic gold, ac­tiv­ity is still very much part of Denise’s life. She runs, cy­cles and does cir­cuits and weight train­ing.

“I ex­er­cise now for that space in my mind – and also so I can main­tain my jeans size,” she ad­mits. “I don’t feel the pres­sure like I used to. It’s about that time away from be­ing a busy mum.”

Denise is op­ti­mistic about Bri­tish sport’s fu­ture and thinks there’s a plethora of tal­ent com­ing through, par­tic­u­larly in women’s sport.

“There are a lot of pos­i­tive role mod­els for young women, in­spir­ing other women to want to get in­volved. That’s a great an­ti­dote to the neg­a­tive im­ages I see, like the self­ies girls my daugh­ter’s age take - it’s all they seem to think about.

“Let’s get them think­ing about be­ing ac­tive in­stead.”

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