4,000 Suffolk kids vow to get fit

AROUND 4,000 Suffolk youngsters have already signed up for an ambitious challenge to make them the fittest in the country and defuse the county's obesity time bomb.

Craig Robinson

AROUND 4,000 Suffolk youngsters have already signed up for an ambitious challenge to make them the fittest in the country and defuse the county's obesity time bomb.

The scheme was only launched at the end of April but is now well on the way to reaching its target of 5,000 children by the end of July.

It is part of the Healthy Ambitions Suffolk Challenge, which is encouraging youngsters to be active for an hour a day every day.

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Latest figures show that one in six 11-year-olds in Suffolk are classified as obese - prompting fears this could put a massive strain on health services in the future.

It currently costs NHS Suffolk �10million a year to treat overweight people but this could rise to �65m by 2050 if nothing is done.

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Every primary school pupil in the county can take part in the healthy ambitions challenge and will receive a free activity item, such as a frisbee, kite, ball or skipping rope.

Each youngster is then given an activity card demonstrating how they can incorporate exercise into their daily lives.

Last night those spearheading the scheme said they were extremely pleased with the positive start.

Peter Bradley, director of public health for Suffolk County Council and NHS Suffolk said: “We are trying to address a very important problem because it will help prevent future health problems - it is a real investment.

“However the challenge is meant to be fun and encourage youngsters to be active and eat a healthy diet.

“We are very pleased with the initial response. We have sent information out to a variety of schools and clubs to ensure that as many youngsters as possible know about it and are able to register.”

Mr Bradley said some schools and clubs were even putting on special events to encourage children to do more.

“Some youngsters are really attracted by sport and we want to do whatever we can to encourage that,” he continued. “However, others are not so keen and the challenge for them is about walking or cycling to school instead getting a lift, doing more activity in the playground or something as simple as helping with the housework. It could be about anything.

“The message we want to try and get across is that exercise can come in many forms and can often be part of your every day life.”

The overall aim is to get all of the county's 50,000 kids to be the healthiest in the UK by 2012 to coincide with the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Adam Baker, Suffolk County Council's project manger for 2012, said: “It has been a fantastic response and people have actually registered quicker that we expected.

“It really seems to have caught the imagination. Obviously we have tried to use the excitement of the Olympics to promote the initiative and it's struck a chord with lots of people.

“We want children to exercise for an hour a day every day. In the past that message hasn't been very clear but it's fundamental to what we are trying to achieve.”

If you would like to sign up to the challenge visit www.suffolkchallenge.co.uk .

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