A pioneering exercise programme for kids has been launched in North Wales amid fears the Covid-19 lockdown could lead to a huge increase in childhood obesity.
Bangor University’s new bilingual Dynamic Dudes video series is now available free online and is proven to get four to 11-year-olds moving – studies show over half a mile in a 20-minute spell.
According to health experts, a third of children are already overweight when they start at primary school and there is mounting concern that the coronavirus restrictions could make matters even worse.
The latest version of the innovative programme, created by the university team and local experts, teaches children how to perform a wide range of key moves in martial arts, dance, football and gymnastics.
Dynamic Dudes was designed to accompany the University’s award-winning Food Dudes programme, initially developed by the late Professor Fergus Lowe, Professor Pauline Horne and their team from the 1990s to enable kids to enjoy eating their greens – 1.6 million worldwide have taken part so far.
It has now been updated and given a modern vibe, featuring locally recruited school pupils and is now ready to come to the rescue with its family friendly movement routines that are perfect for indoors.
Professor Pauline Horne, of the University’s School of Psychology, created the Dynamic Dudes concept and has led the team’s development of the new series, available via the newly created website https://dynamic-dudes.bangor.ac.uk/index.php.en
She said: “We were already facing a childhood obesity epidemic, a worldwide public health challenge, and though the restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 crisis are vital, prolonged lockdown could lead to children taking even less exercise and eating even more unhealthy foods.
“Dynamic Dudes really works and has been proven to meet daily in-school activity targets recommended by the Chief Medical Officers UK.
“We know that 30 per cent of children who start at primary school are already overweight but our research carried out at schools in the West Midlands and in Wales shows that Dynamic Dudes increases fitness and daily activity and has a protective effect on waist size.
“The children would wear pedometers that showed that their activity in school increased by an average of 800 steps a day – about the same as a half a mile run.”
As well as being trialled by schools across the UK, Dynamic Dudes has been showcased to an international conference at Zagreb in Croatia in 2017.
Lauren Toal, Research Project Support Officer at the University’s Centre for Activity and Eating Research and a key member of Professor Horne’s team, said: “We’ve created the Dynamic Dudes series in Welsh and English and it is now free on the internet.
“We just thought we had this fantastic new resource designed for use in school classrooms but right now families are having to spend most of the day indoors which must be really difficult for parents as well as frustrating for their kids.
“There are 36 fast-paced and fun videos which have been developed with the help of experts in a range of sports and recreational activities, recruited from the University and local community, and the idea is to teach children key movement skills in dance, martial arts, gymnastics and football that are challenging but also safe for primary school age children to perform.”
The videos, which feature young people mostly from the local area, are at three levels of difficulty, Beginner, Advanced and Peak Power.
They feature the Dynamic Dudes Razz, Rocco, Charlie and Tom modelling moves in Martial Arts, Gymnastics, Football and Dance to give children a healthy burst of activity that also meets the Chief Medical Officers UK daily activity guidelines for the school day.
Professor Horne said: “We’ve had a huge amount of help from other experts at the University and local community who have been amazingly generous with their expertise and time.
“This is especially true of filmmaker Mathew Owen, from the University’s School of Music and Media, whose superb filming, special effects and all round video production skills have been vital to the success of the project.
“Mathew is bilingual, extremely patient and highly skilled at coaxing excellent performances from young child actors.
“His media skills and Welsh language ability have been invaluable throughout the Project while Dr Laura Timmis also helped recruit children, teach them the Dudes’ moves, and support them throughout filming.
“The moves selected by experts for presentation in the videos are those that can be performed in the confines of school classrooms so they’re also ideal for children to perform in their homes during lockdown.
“We are particularly keen to give access to families living in high-rise flats who must be feeling extremely frustrated and alone at the moment.”
Lauren, who has a Masters in Science in Psychology from Bangor and is currently doing a part-time PhD, came to the University from Newry, in Northern Ireland, on a scholarship and plays Gaelic Football as well as football for local women’s side Bethesda.
She added: “The videos can be accessed easily via the website at any time and on any device including mobile phones so you can watch them at home when it suits you.
“The aim is not only to increase fitness but also to teach children new fundamental movement skills in a range of sports and recreational activities to inspire them to be active both now and in later life.
“They are perfect for the current situation because they are designed to be performed in the confined space of a classroom but just as easily in the home. They’re also fun and energetic and mums and dads can join in too.”