We're healthier and happier!
Dec 28 2009 By Diane Parkes
Twelve-year-old Kane Shaw has discovered different ways of keeping healthy, thanks to WAY4Ward
When mum Paula Shaw became concerned that her son Kane was not doing enough exercise and was in danger of putting on weight, she decided to turn to the specialists for help. Paula, a 38-year-old self-employed caterer, referred Kane and herself, on to a 12-week programme aiming to encourage youngsters to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
And while it may all sound a bit worthy, when Kane was offered the chance to take part in activities as diverse as basketball, boxercise, high ropes and kayaking, he discovered that exercise could actually be a lot of fun. Kane, a 12-year-old pupil at Shire Oak School in Brownhills, Walsall, and his mum began the course in January and the changes were immediate.
Kane loved it, says Paula, who is married to 42-year-old quality control worker Stuart. There wasnt a single week when he didnt want to go. Each week was for two hours. For the first hour, the kids would go and do an activity but they made sure they were different all the time.
The whole point was to introduce them to different sports so they knew there were other things than just football. They did things like basketball, tennis, boxercise, self-defence. Each time, they did a different sport.
And while they were having fun, the parents went back to school. We would spend the first hour in a classroom where there were courses on all kinds of things like healthy lunch boxes and how to stop your child spending too much time in front of the television, says Paula. Then for the second hour, we would swap. The children would do the same course and, depending on where we were, we could use a gym or sit and chat with other parents.
Much that they were covering, Paula was already doing but she admits she was concerned about Kane - so much so that it was her who referred him to the scheme after hearing about it from her sister.
As mum to Kane and his ten-year-old sister Nina, a pupil at Castlefort School in Walsall Wood, Paula knows the importance of a healthy lifestyle but she also knows the battles parents can have with their children. At home, Kane was eating reasonably well, she says. I could control what he was eating at home and I would give him healthy lunch boxes but then when I was doing the washing, I would find sweet and cake wrappers in his pockets. He said his friends gave them to him.
I was concerned because I couldnt control what his friends were giving him. He wasnt overweight but I was concerned that he might become overweight if no-one was controlling what he was eating.
I knew about the course and I thought it would be a good idea as I thought Kane would listen to other people, rather than his parents.
It was definitely the right decision. Kane is much more active now. He goes out on his bike whereas, before, it was just left in the garage and he knows there are lots of different things he can do.
When we were doing the course, we each had a folder with lots of targets and he really did it. He is also eating different foods. We did have an issue with getting him to eat fruit and vegetables but, on the course, they got the kids to prepare the food and then do a taste test on different fruit and vegetables. Because they had prepped them, they were prepared to try them and they found there were foods that they liked. When we came back an hour later, they had eaten everything.
It was definitely the right thing to do. It wasnt about weight, it was about being healthy but I can tell from his clothes he has lost a bit.
Kane is only one of nearly 400 young people who have been inspired to adopt a healthier lifestyle by Walsall-based WAY4ward. A partnership between Walsall Council and NHS services in the town, the scheme aims to encourage children to become more active and to eat a healthy diet. Under active lifestyle officer Ian Rawlinson, the scheme has a number of programmes including Fun 4 Life, which is funded by Active England.
WAY4ward offers places to young people aged between eight and 16 who are looking to up their fitness. The main thing is trying to increase activity levels, says Ian. Kane is a good example of that and in his case, he was really helped by the fact that his mum Paula really engaged - involving parents is half the battle.
Ian says it is possible to adapt to health trends. The service is always changing, he says. With funding from the NHS, we are looking at childhood obesity and that means the service can look at lifestyle rather than just activity.
* Children can be referred by a health professional, parent or guardian. Details on 01902 605500 or go to www.walsall.gov.uk. To find more tips for families to become healthier and more active visit www.nhs.uk/Change4life/.