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22.11.2010 - Ausgabe: 5/2010

Lamp posts and paving stones to fight obesity


With the program SAFARIKIDS, 8 to 12 year olds can learn to explore their own surroundings in a playful way – on their way to school, at home or on the playground or football areas.

At first glance it is a normal sports lesson, in which children in the suburbs of Frankfurt are participating. A colourful bunch of children in gym trousers and T-shirts, a female instructor, a sports hall with glass blocks. However, listening to the coach explaining, you are reminded more of a mix of primeval forests and city walking tours.
At times the children are being blown by the jungle wind, at times they are cameleers - rotating around the lamp posts shortly after or hopping about on the pattern of the paving stones.

“The children are supposed to discover new paths, spaces and kinds of materials for exercising. So, of course, being active becomes integrated in everyday life. That is something which is very much lacking with children today,” says Professor Dr. Petra Wagner of the University of Leipzig, who devised the concept according to the latest scientific findings. “Older children are forced to find oases for exercising by themselves because the traditional playground with chutes and sandpits for the 8 to 12 year olds is often not appealing anymore,” says Wagner. In doing so, the children can also discover football areas and half pipe table tennis tables, which hadn’t previously stood out in their surroundings.

Since this year, the SAFARIKIDS program has been offered in most Federal States by DAK in collaboration with gymnastics clubs onsite. Every hour on the program, there is a “Safari Tour” through different everyday action spaces. The course runs for twelve weeks and there is a concluding safari at the end of it. “This doesn’t take place in the sports hall, but ideally in the open air pool, on an evening walk or on a cycle tour,” says Wagner.

DAK views the SAFARIKIDS Program as making an important contribution to health promotion: “All health insurance establishments are noticing a growth in illnesses and diseases, which are a result of inactive lifestyles. More so than previously, we are now looking after people who are suffering from diabetes, cardiovascular diseases or back problems. All these require cost-intensive therapy and the causes all stem from past lifestyles and, for the most part, can no longer be remedied,” explains DAK Sports Expert Uwe Dresel. “Incidentally, today it is indisputable that mental health problems, stress and problems at school are also related to lack of exercise and have an effect on eating habits.”

The title SAFARIKIDS stands for the following characteristics: self-confidence, active, fit, balanced, robust and integrated. The program isn’t just about detecting your own exercise habits, but also those of the parents. They also have to deal with tour orders and motivate children,_ too. “We have already sent some families on a discovery tour of real life, and some fathers have admitted to us that they are lazier than they would like to be”, explains Wagner. Concepts from the animal kingdom are recurrent themes throughout the program.

Because you can’t exclude eating and drinking from being active, the FitFood Discovery tour is offered on the course. “An integrated understanding of health among overweight and predominantly inactive children doesn’t just require an exercise program but also education on nutrition and self-management and behavioural change,” explains Wagner.

The courses are being subsidised by health funds. More information can be obtained from www.dak.de/safarikids


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