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Push to make children more physically active

Initiatives aimed at raising children's physical activity levels are expected to be launched next year as part of the new Premier's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

The Department of Health has teamed up with a host of professionals to establish the Premier's Youth Fitness Programme and the Premier's Challenge.

According to the Healthy Schools co-ordinator, Marie Beach-Johnson, the initiatives will introduce children to different sports, while encouraging them to gain higher fitness levels.

“It's to really expose them to other physical activity options,” Ms Beach-Johnson told The Royal Gazette. “Then they can better choose which physical activities they like.”

The initiatives fall under the Well Bermuda strategy, which also includes the Healthy Schools programme and is part of the Department of Health's drive to tackle overweight and obesity on the Island.

According to the Steps to a Well Bermuda Survey conducted in 2014, 75 per cent of the Island's adult population is overweight or obese, but there are no statistics for children.

These are being gathered this year through the Fitnessgram application, which has been mandated by the Department of Education for all public schools.

Private schools have been asked to provide the same information so that a better picture of children's health in Bermuda can be established.

According to Ms Beach-Johnson, the initiatives, together with the Healthy Schools programme, are part of the “prevention piece”.

She said: “The goal is to prevent the development of overweight and obesity. This generation is reportedly not going to live as long as their parents.”

The Premier's Youth Fitness Programme aims to prevent and reduce the risk of non-communicable diseases and thereby increase the lifespan of children.

It will be based on the results provided by the Fitnessgram application, which measures children in primary year five to secondary year three in five areas of fitness.

The programme will provide students, parents and teachers with individual reports and recommendations on how to improve their health and increase physical activity.

A website will be launched for children and parents to log their physical activity levels, to research what options are available and to compete against themselves to win small prizes for their achievements.

This website will also make it easier for parents to identify opportunities and to educate them on the available choices, according to Ms Beach-Johnson.

Because children are more likely to enjoy physical activity as adults if they learn to love it at a young age, she said it would also give parents the opportunity to set a good example by increasing their physical activity levels.

She added that coaches would be asked to sign off on physical activities for students so that PE teachers, students and parents could track their progress.

The Premier's Challenge, on the other hand, aims to reward those trying to reach a higher level of fitness.

“We'll have a celebration every year,” Ms Beach-Johnson said, adding that Michael Dunkley, the Premier, would be asked to hand out the awards.

The Premier's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition was convened in September and consists of six professionals who have worked with children in areas of health and fitness. Healthy Schools is represented on the council and part of developing the schemes.

These will be rolled out in two phases: phase one will focus on encouraging children to participate in different physical activities to reach the daily World Health Organisation recommendation of 60 minutes per day and achieving short-term goals for which the council is organising small prizes.

This phase is expected to kick off in the new school year.

Phase two will include adults and younger children. Teachers will also be able to participate, as well as groups and the corporate sector.

Road to fitness: Michelle Beach-Johnson, the Healthy Schools co-ordinator

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Published December 07, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 07, 2015 at 8:33 am)

Push to make children more physically active

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