Girls just want to have fun - and keep fit for life

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A new project is helping teenage girls learn more about exercise and become fit for life.

Faceless Arts has been working with year nine students from De Lacy Academy, Horbury Academy, Wakefield City Academy and Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy to help them find new ways of exercising and become Fit for Life Physical Activity Mentors.

The team from Faceless - a community engagement arts organisation - used physical activity and visual workshop development techniques to get the girls interested.

The 13-year-olds then held workshops with year six pupils at Vale Academy, Horbury St Peter’s and Clifton Primary, Heath View Academy and West End Academy.

Bev Adams, artistic director at Faceless Arts, said: “The girls have been so much fun to work with. They have taken their responsibilities as Fit for Life mentors with professionalism and enthusiasm.

“They have gained in confidence and ability and also learned so much about why it is important to be active to stay healthy.

“The mentors have enjoyed it so much, they would love to do more and it would be so good if we could roll this out to more schools. The year 6 pupils have also enjoyed and learned from the Fit for Life mentors’ workshop. It appears that the experience has been life changing for both sets of pupils.”

The initiative - which has been funded by Wakefield Council’s Creative Partners Funding Scheme - gave the mentors a chance to try out a new physical activity, such as trampolining, rounders and MokyFit, a fun dance workout which uses easy to follow dance moves set to popular music. Around 30 mentors have been trained, in turn reaching 150 younger students.

The mentors all said they felt happier and had more positive perceptions of exercise following the programme.

Coun Les Shaw, cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport at the council said: “This is an innovative and creative approach to encourage these young people to find new ways to exercise and stay interested.

“Physical activity needs to play an important part in all our lives and it is encouraging to see our schools taking part.”

A recent survey of 2,000 schoolgirls aged from 11 to 17 found that 75 per cent had at least one concern preventing them from doing physical activity to the recommended levels.

Government guidelines currently state that 11-13-year-olds should be carrying out seven, one hour periods of exercise every week, three of which should be vigorous activity including exercises for strengthening muscles and bones. Vigorous activity means it would be hard to hold a conversation and both the heartbeat and breathing increases. The recommended exercise levels are rarely met by teenagers and, between the ages of 11 and 13, girls start to fall significantly behind boys in their exercise levels.