Global obesity is a growing problem and according to reports, childhood obesity in particular is at its worst levels ever. South African statistics show an alarming number of children are overweight or obese, similar to levels recorded in developed countries more than a decade ago. Parents record a worrying obsession with technology including cellphones, tablets, television and gaming as many of them are specifically designed for children, who seem to prefer them to being active.
What’s to be done then?
While overweight children are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease and other disorders in adulthood, this is not the only reason to take action and get children eating better and moving – in fact, the earlier, the better!
Physical activity has a host of benefits – mental perception levels, social, physical and physiological.
And to help busy families teach little ones to move like champs, Virgin Active has introduced a new fundamental movement skills programme for children aged 3 to 7 at their Club-V facilities. Called ‘Active Play’ the programme is a collaboration between the health club and Kinderkinetics at the Department of Sport Science, Stellenbosch University.
Why this age group?
“The phase between 2-7 years old is considered the fundamental movement phase of gross motor development, says Dr Eileen Africa, Lecturer and Head of Kinderkinetics, Department of Sport Science, Stellenbosch University
Dr Africa says, “Fundamental movement skills (FMS) are important because they serve as the basis for what goes beyond. FMS are critical to establish the foundation for participation in more complex movements later in life. An active child is a happy child and a happy child becomes a healthy adult.”
“The focus of Active Play is on the development of 10 fundamental movement skills,” says Catherine Coupar, National Junior Member Manager at Virgin Active. “These include running, jumping, hopping, galloping, throwing, catching, striking, kicking, static balance and dynamic balance. Each of these fundamental movement skills has two or more activities created for them. These activities are carried out in fun, short bursts, which we are calling ‘movement moments’, to kick start the children’s skills development with us.”
How much ‘active is enough?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) sets the guidelines for children in order to improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness and bone health. Children and youth aged between 5 and 17 should accumulate at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity daily.
Dr Africa says, “This kind of activity used to be a normal part of childhood but the time children spend on active play is limited for the following reasons: safety issues, both parents employed, smaller gardens, toys that make a difference to activity (like bicycles) are expensive, busy lifestyles and of course technology.
“Kinderkinetics,” she says, “decided to collaborate with Virgin Active on this project because it is the perfect platform to share our passion for children’s health and wellbeing. We have written the Active Play manual to help make activities in Club-V more structured and scientifically-based. We also want to make parents more aware of the type of activities that can be done to help their children.”
How it works
Club-V staff, who are qualified in early childhood development and paediatric first aid, have been fully trained and have their own equipment toolkit – including ladders, bean bags, cones, hula hoops and more as well as cue cards to effectively deliver the movement skills programme. The aim is to keep it fun, aspirational and interactive.
- Every child will get his or her own Active Play book (which stays at the club) and every time an activity is completed a tick goes onto the relevant page in their book.
- Once they have received all ticks for that activity, they receive a sticker for their book, as a sign of achievement of that movement skill.
- Once the whole book is filled up, they receive a certificate, which they take home, along with their finished book, in order to share their success with mum and dad.
“We will continue to add new activities every few months, which means the children start new books and continue to learn new activities to keep them stimulated and moving as well as becoming more proficient at these movement skills,” says Coupar. “In addition, we will also have extra movement and activity ideas for parents so that they can actively exercise and play at home with their children.”
Active Play is now available at all Club-V facilities. Look out for the poster campaign which has as its pay off line: ‘Make friends with us. We’re learning to move, the fun way.’
So if your life is busy and time for exercise is tight but you have your child’s wellbeing at heart, make Active Play your kid’s ‘exercise companion’ to ensure your kids get moving and are active. And of course, stay happy.