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Fighting Childhood Obesity with Group-based Activity


Childhood obesity is a global problem and presents one of the most serious challenges to public health in the 21st century. Statistics indicate that children who are overweight or obese are likely to remain this way into adulthood and are at greater risk of developing conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. Being overweight or obese is largely preventable. By promoting a love of movement at an early age, we can help to foster healthy habits that can be maintained for life.

A 2012 study conducted by Professor Ralph Maddison and his team at Auckland University in New Zealand sought to evaluate the effectiveness of exposing children to group-based physical activity, where the moves are set to music. The assumption was that children would enjoy the opportunity to express themselves on a physical platform, which in turn would help them develop a lifelong love of movement.

The evaluation was undertaken with two classes of students, ages 12 to 13 years, during a four-month period in late 2012. One class took part in the movement-to-music program, while the other continued with their usual curriculum and served as a control group. Data was collected on psychological (self-efficacy and perceived enjoyment) as well as physiological variables. The key physiological finding was that the movement-to-music classes were classified as moderate intensity exercise. The psychological results of the study were as follows:

1. The movement-to-music program was well received by students; almost all students (87 percent) rated the program as enjoyable.

2. Exercising to music and the group environment were key features of the program for students.

3. The intervention had a positive effect on student’s self-efficacy to be active.

A follow up study took place in July and August this year at Pennsylvania State University in the U.S. This time, two groups of children (Group A comprised 56 students, ages 6-8 years; Group B comprised 38 students, ages 9-12 years) completed two group, music-based fitness classes per week for six weeks.

This study again measured psychological variables, and the outcomes were similar: the children in Group A demonstrated a strong belief in their ability to do the moves (87 percent) and low levels of concern about the way they looked (76 percent were unconcerned). Music was a key driver of fun (90 percent), and the majority preferred exercising in a group (65 percent).

The outcomes remained positive for Group B but did reflect an increased level of self-consciousness as children age. Both interest levels (72 percent) and enjoyment (61 percent) were still high for this age group as were self-efficacy (69 percent). The majority of the older children felt that the music was motivating (81 percent).

Although some participants were not worried about how they looked (47 percent) or their ability to perform the movements well (31 percent), a greater proportion demonstrated a level of concern about these two aspects. These latter findings are easily addressed by instructors, who must ensure they create a safe and accepting environment for older children to help them achieve a high level of intrinsic satisfaction from completing a group, music-based class.

Both studies amply demonstrate objective shifts in attitude and levels of enjoyment when exposing children to movements set to music in a group environment. These factors are critical to cultivating children’s immediate appetite for movement and establishing great physical habits for life.


If you are interested in offering a movement-to-music program for children at your facility, check out Les Mills BORN TO MOVE™ at www.lessmills.com/borntomove.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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