Motivating children to be active and stay active is the aim of a new initiative launched by a Leeds gym.
Budget gym Xercise4Less on Kirkstall Road, Leeds is encouraging chldren and their parents to get active with four free gym classes a week. Open to children aged between three and five and their parent or guardian, the aim is to encourage physical activity and a healthier overall lifestyle.
Motivated by childhood obesity is still a headline issue, Xercise4Less CEO Jon Wright said: “Childhood obesity levels have been an issue our team has been passionate about for a number of years now.
“In the UK we currently have children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents, mainly because of a basic lack of activity.
Figures released in 2015 showed 9.5% of children in Leeds aged between four and five-years-old and 19.3% of ten and 11-year-olds were classed as obese.
Recent research carried out by Leeds Beckett University for the Getting Kids Moving report said the struggle to balance demanding work commitments with family life meant many children are not achieving the recommended amount of daily physical activity.
Olympic gold medallist, Sally Gunnell, who is championing the Getting Kids Active campaign, admitted that even being a top class athlete didn’t make it any easier to get kids away from their screens.
“With three children, who all love their computer games and are happy to enjoy themselves in front of the TV, I know how difficult it can be to tear kids away,” she said.
“Sarah Philp, Xercise4Kids Co-coordinator said the idea of helping families exercise together is the concept behind the sessions she has developed for the gym chain.
“These classes eliminate the childcare barrier and also encourage interaction between the parent and child as opposed to the current child movement classes offered,” she said.
At 45 minutes long, the sessions incorporate four or five different activities which also help develop children’s fine and gross motor skills, as well as exercising major muscle groups. They are also themed in four different ways, The Underwater Kingdom, Deserted Lands, Jump Around the Jungle and The Exceptional Circus, designed to encourage imagination. At the end of each eight week programme, the children are presented with a certificate to document their progression.
Mr Wright said that by providing free exercise classes to every child aged three to five the chain wanted to tackle childhood obesity head on by educating families to the benefits of a healthier, happier lifestyle.
NHS guidelines for children recommend:
Babies: should be encouraged to be active throughout the day every day.
Toddlers: should be physically active every day for at least three hours.
Under 5s: should not be inactive for long periods unless they are sleeping.
Light activity for children includes: standing up, moving around, walking.
Energetic activity includes: running around, riding a bike, dancing, swimming and climbing.