Wellington researchers are recruiting heavyweight Maori and Pacific Island boys to take part in a study to see if making exercise fun actually works.
Promoting exercise is one way of tackling the expanding obesity epidemic that is spreading throughout the Western World, where people are becoming more sedentary, Massey University sports and exercise researcher Sarah Shultz says.
Thirty-five per cent of secondary school pupils watch television for three or more hours every day and just 11 per cent of children are meeting the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week.
The 10 overweight teens, aged 14 or 15, who will take part in the pilot study will not be thrown into the deep end - or the ring - at the Petone Sports and Boxing Club.
"Running is great but if it hurts they're not going to do it," Dr Shultz said. Instead, they will ease into exercise with non-contact resistance training, involving free weights, circuits and boxing.
Dr Shultz said she had to "think outside the box" and had steered away from traditional exercise such as running, cycling or team sports because heavy children "simply don't have the fitness to do those sports and do them well".
She chose boxing for its cool factor and because people of all sizes and ages can do it. It is hoped that exercising three times a week for three months will improve the boys' health.
"It's not about weight, it's about promoting health and promoting a lifestyle that is physically active," Dr Shultz said.
Blood tests before and after will measure cholesterol, insulin and glucose levels to monitor the risk of heart and metabolic disease. Tests, including fitness tests, are expected to be done in mid-March before training starts in April.
The club's head coach, Robbie Martin, and sport and exercise researcher Lee Stoner will run the training sessions.
A further 10 boys will be recruited as controls for the pilot study that received $20,000 funding from Massey University.
They will also have a health assessment but will not take part in training at this stage.
Nearly a third of children are either overweight or obese, according to the Ministry of Health.
The latest national health survey found 10 per cent of children aged between 2 and 14 were obese and 21 per cent were overweight.
It also found the previously steady obesity rate had increased from eight per cent in 2007 to 11 per cent in 2012. Obese children are more likely to be obese as adults. They are also more likely to have abnormal cholesterol and blood pressure levels at a younger age than children who are within the normal weight range.
Childhood obesity is also associated with social and mental health problems.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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