Fitness sessions for kids to combat lazy lifestyles

20:00, Feb 07 2014
Paddy McLoughlin helping kids get a head start with their ball skills at Country Kindy. From left, Carter Kearney, 4, Grace Mossman, 4, Emily Trask, 4 and William Flynn,
GET MOVING: Paddy McLoughlin helping kids get a head start with their ball skills at Country Kindy. From left, Carter Kearney, 4, Grace Mossman, 4, Emily Trask, 4 and William Flynn, 3.

Parents are pushing to get their kids in shape earlier than ever with childhood obesity a growing concern.

Fitness programmes aimed at Palmerston North's pint-sized population are cropping up around the city, with early childhood centres bringing in specialists to teach toddlers sport skills, popular adult exercise crazes being adapted to suit children and free community-based health scheme being extended to include preschoolers as well.

Country Kindy, near Feilding, brings in sports education entrepreneur Paddy McLoughlin, who runs Fun Football for the Little People, once a week to run a session with about twenty 3- and 4-year-olds.

Mr McLoughlin, who visits about 32 centres a week teaching more than 500 toddlers, runs through drills aimed at helping preschoolers with their co-ordination, confidence, balance and basic fitness.

"Sports activities is the part that's missing in early childhood education. We've everything else in there," Mr McLoughlin said. "The earlier we can get kids involved with sport the better, and my role is to sow those seeds."

Country Kindy owner Fiona Zwart said the sessions were important for children's development and keeping kids healthy.


"We portray ourselves as this active, adventurous country, but sometimes our children get forgotten about as adults' lives and days get busier than ever before."

Popular adult fitness programmes are also being adopted for children, with the fitness craze Crossfit the latest to be adapted to suit kids.

Palmerston North fitness specialists Crossfit Mana, a gym which runs sessions for adults based on the components of cardio, gymnastics and weightlifting, has recreated a series of classes geared for children called Crossfit Tamariki.

Primary school-aged students do a 45-minutes skills-based, game-orientated workout under the watchful eye of trained instructors which could see them jumping on boxes, moving weights or just relay races.

"The country's gone soft . . . and this is a good way of getting kids active and teaching them new things, like body awareness, as well as social aspects and discipline," Crossfit Mana owner Aaron James said.

Sport Manawatu extended its Active Families community-based health scheme last year, originally created for 5- to 18-year-olds, to include 4-year-olds.

It focuses on fundamental movements and teaches kids about nutrition and active living, an important lesson as society becomes more technology driven, co-ordinator Sarah Wilson said.

"Because of technology, kids are less likely to just go run around . . . It's reigniting a passion to get kids out there and playing - just starting them off and given them the tools to carry on and participate."

Massey University organisational sociologist Dr Andrew Dickson, an expert in weight loss and obesity concerns, said the lessons were most likely to be carried into later life when these programmes put effort into working with children.

"The reason that this stuff has become more popular is because there is a growing panic in society about childhood obesity," he said.

"The general trend is if you intervene early enough in a child's life then they won't develop obesity later in life . . . Some [people] will say it's about ingraining behaviours when they're really little."

Manawatu Standard