Villa stars and health chiefs back gym to fix obesity problem

Aston Villa and Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust (HoBtPCT) have launched their latest tactic designed to give obesity among youngsters the boot - a children's gym.

Aston Villa and Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust (HoBtPCT) have launched their latest tactic designed to give obesity among youngsters the boot - a children's gym.

Villa, through their Community Interest Company (CIC), and HoBtPCT teamed up last year to tackle the expanding problem of childhood obesity in Birmingham.

The problem is particularly prevalent in the area covered by HoBtPCT, which includes the Premiership football club's stadium, Villa Park.

Data collected from schools there has revealed that more than a third of 11 to 12-year-olds and almost a fifth of four to five-year-olds are overweight or obese. 

This led to the Villa Vitality Programme, which sees the club host two day-long sessions per week, each for a maximum of 60 children, at their stadium.

The programme aims to encourage the children to understand and appreciate the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, balanced diet, regular exercise and not smoking.

And the Children's Gym at Villa Park, unique in its position within a Premiership football ground, is a natural follow on.

It was launched on Friday April 20 and Villa stars Craig Gardner and Thomas Sorensen were among the VIPs at the ceremony.

Craig Gardner, who was born in Birmingham, reckons the gym will encourage youngsters who are not interested in or good at team sports to take exercise.

He said: "When I played football at school the same lad used to get picked last every time and felt very down about it.

"You can come in here, run and row and are not going to get embarrassed because you can come and go as you please and exercise on your own."

Thomas Sorensen, meanwhile, believes the fact that the gym is at Villa Park will help make taking exercise 'cool'.

He said: "It's a fantastic gym - as good as the one we've got at the training ground.

"Taking exercise is very important and this is a great way to attract youngsters to do it."

Welcoming the latest addition to the Villa Vitality Programme, Jacky Chambers, Director of Public Health, HoBtPCT, added: "We've seen a worrying rise in levels of childhood obesity both on a national and local level. It's never been more important to get kids active and instil a sense of balance with everything they eat.

"Most youngsters like crisps and chocolate and healthy eating isn't about total deprivation of these things. However, children do need to build an awareness of the value of a balanced diet and exercise.

"Projects like 'Villa Vitality' working alongside the new gym, hopefully go some way to encouraging young people to see the value of a healthier approach to living."

The funding for the gym has been provided by Aston Ward's Neighbourhood Renewal Fund and it will be managed jointly by Aston Villa and Birmingham City Council's Leisure services.

Through HoBtPCT, school and practice nurses, local schools, doctors' practices and school dieticians will be able to prescribe exercise to overweight or obese children who will then be referred to the gym. In addition, local schools will be able to use the facility during the day as part of PE lessons.

Further information contact Mandy Pritchard at LTA Communications on 01384 444044.

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