Up to 20,000 primary school pupils at risk of developing weight problems will be targeted by a new generation of “lifestyle coaches”, the Government has revealed.
The specially-trained staff will give children an extra hour of physical activity every week – on top of conventional PE lessons.
Government officials said the sessions would be aimed at boosting children’s confidence, improving fitness and reducing weight.
Activities are expected to include yoga, martial arts and free running – a form of street acrobatics in which participants use walls, stairs and railings to perform stunts.
One-in-seven primary schoolchildren are now seriously overweight and experts predict that the problem could dramatically worsen in coming decades.
Children failing to exercise are at increased risk of developing serious illnesses such as heart disease, type-two diabetes and some cancers in later life.
Coaches will target children aged four and five – in the first year of primary school – and those aged 10 and 11 who are about to move into secondary education.
Pupils, who will be referred to staff by GPs and classroom teachers, will receive one hour every week of fitness activities designed to “improve self-esteem and confidence”, the Government said. Some 20,000 children will be affected in 1,100 English schools.
But the British Heart Foundation accused Labour of “shilly-shallying around” with headline-grabbing schemes.
Peter Hollins, the chief executive, said: “Unfortunately, childhood obesity levels in England remain far too high and it is too early to trumpet success when the Government still hasn’t taken the steps it needs to really tackle this problem.
“They need to stop shilly-shallying around and bring in a single front-of-pack food labelling scheme without further dithering.
“The Government must also do more to stand up to junk food marketers. A ban on all junk food advertising before the 9 pm watershed is the only way to stop children from being bombarded with adverts for unhealthy products.”
Source: Daily Telegraph