Weight-loss craze to fight obesity in schools

Children at Craigour try out the fitness programme during class time in a bid to improve their health and learning capabilty. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach

IT’S the instant weight-loss craze first developed by a world-famous Japanese fitness guru – now it’s set to become the latest weapon in a bid to defeat obesity in the Capital’s schools.

Youngsters in Craigour Park Primary’s P1 class are believed to be the first in Scotland to trial high-intensity workouts in class time as part of a drive to raise fitness levels and attitudes to exercise.

Inspired by the Tabata protocol exercise regime – invented by internationally renowned health expert 
Professor Izumi Tabata and aimed initially at Olympic speed-skaters – the new approach sees pupils engage in 30-second “bursts” of intense physical activity at the start of the school day.

Children are asked to ­perform simple “on-the-spot” activities such as star jumps and scissor leaps during a five-minute series of mini-workouts and breather periods.

The Craigour Park pilot is based on research showing brief, high-intensity exercise can have a greater impact on overall fitness than longer, ­cardio-based sessions.

Although the project is still in its early stages, staff said there had already been a ­notable increase in pupils’ enthusiasm and are hopeful the sessions can quickly be rolled out to other classes and schools across Edinburgh.

Clair Jackson, Craigour Park P1 teacher, said: “It’s really promising – we’re seeing a lot more of them keeping up.

“We’re trying to find out where this fits into the day. Further down the road we might do it after lunch-time or, in the middle of the morning.

“It’s early days [but] they are looking to roll this out to the rest of the school. Our PE teacher is really keen for other classes to take this up.”

Health chiefs have welcomed the pilot and said building in regular movement over and above PE lessons would have wide-ranging benefits for pupils.

Dr Graham Mackenzie, ­consultant in public health at NHS Lothian, said: “It’s very encouraging to see how enthusiastic children and staff have been about the idea of building short bursts of physical activity into their school day.

“Exercise has a powerful positive effect, boosting ­physical and emotional health and wellbeing, improving ­concentration in school work, and it’s fun. We should see a measurable impact of this work over the course of the school term, which should encourage other schools to join in.”

City bosses said they were committed to achieving improved health and fitness in all of Edinburgh’s children.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “The Physical Activity Project is a great example of partnership working and if it’s successful then we’re hoping to roll it out across other primary schools.”

Schools fitness plan is innovative says research

MEL Coutts, principal officer for sport and outdoor learning at the city council, said Craigour Park’s pilot was innovative because it was focused on boosting fitness rather than physical competence.

She said helping youngsters become used to intense exercise every day would also be crucial to forming healthy living habits in later life.

“The idea here is that through the 30-second burst you work as hard as you possibly can and over time your fitness will increase,” she said.

“By doing these short bursts, we know, because of the research, that there will be a positive effect on fitness and health – just by doing this, there will be an increase in kids’ fitness.”

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