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Friday, 27 July 2012


On Wednesday I ran the first PhysiBall class in our local Church Hall. Five 4 year olds and a 2 year old participated in mad bean-bag-parachute-ball fun. Being the first time with new equipment and kids - it was various degrees of mayhem - but I loved every minute! I loved facilitating movement and fun and being challenged to come up with more activities than I had planned for those smiling faces.

It convinced me that I want to be doing this very thing in this very hall or venues like it. Running PhysiBall is the most fun I have had professionally for a very long time! And even though my son was rather the chatterbox and fairly disruptive throughout I was so glad to be providing him with an exercise opportunity - a really positive life skill - and it made me feel like a good parent.

I am so grateful to my friends who came along to support us, Karen and Marzanne with their kids. These things are always difficult to get off the ground and the loyal support of friends is invaluable for encouragement and motivation. Thank you!

I am also grateful to my parents who provided the babysitting of Adam and ball pumping pairs of hands. To have you here in London is such a tremendous blessing and makes things like this possible for me, I cannot thank you enough.

I can't wait for next Wednesday!

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Exercise for happiness

My two sons love watching TV and playing games on our phones. I know how easy it is to let hours slip by with them engaged in this way every day. According to a survey children aged six to eleven are thought to watch an average of 28 hours of television, video and computer games a week (four hours a day), with two to five year olds watching an average of 32 hours (Nielsons, 2009 How Teens Use Media - A Nielsen report on the myths and realities of teen media trends). Another survey found that four hours a day was a minimum for six to fourteen-year-olds, but that this often doubled during the weekends and school holidays (Rideout, V.J., Foehr, U.G. & Roberts, D.F. 2010 GENERATION M2 Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds). Parents clearly need encouragement, support and advice on getting their children up and off the couch - myself included.

The long term effects of this level of sedentary behaviour are mammoth and include obesity, delayed speech, aggression, lack of physical and psychological development. Most worryingly is that starting out life like this sets up a really strong pattern for continuing life like this. I certainly don't want my children to struggle with any of the above problems as they grow up. I need to give my children the right example of physical activity and engage them actively every day. For under 5's this needs to be at least 3 hours of a day (not consecutive). We all need to take responsibility in this, parents, schools and government.

Something else that I believe is overlooked in this dilemma is our children's general happiness and their ability to be happy throughout their life. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a hungarian professor, is the architect of the concept of 'flow' - a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand and the situation. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. (Csikszentmihalyi,1990). He developed this concept from his work in trying to understand human happiness and studying the creative processes of artists and the like. When in the flow we are also at our happiest. When in a state of apathy we are at our unhappiest but don't necessarily understand why. Activities that induce apathy are typically ones where we are not challenged nor require any skill - eg watching TV. The more time we spend doing them, the stronger the pathways of apathy we create in our psyche and the more we diminish our interest and ability to engage in activities requiring challenge and skill thereby denying ourselves the joy that comes from being in the flow.

Lets be mindful of the effect of our choices today on our children's and our own future happiness!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

How do we encourage children to do sport and exercise?

I am so excited to have Michelle Burns as part of the Physifun team. We are both so passionate about Physifun's goals and I know that Michelle will take Physifun UK from strength to strength.  I believe that Physifun offers a cost-effective and evidence based approach to helping children with motor skill difficulties and that intervening at an early age with Physifun will give these children the confidence and self-esteem to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes sport and exercise. 

An article in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (Vol 182, number 11, 2010) showed that children with possible Developmental Coordination Disorder were at a greater risk of obesity and being overweight, than children without the disorder. Surely, research like this should make governments question where they should be spending their money? Governments should give funding priority to those exercise programmes which help the children who have exercise and motor difficulties. These children need to be taught the skills in a therapeutic way so that they can reach a standard baseline of activity. All children need to be able to hop, skip, jump and catch a ball. These are the fundamental skills of sport and exercise. A child who cannot do these things will not be interested in exercise because (as we all know), no-one wants to do something that they feel they cannot do. So, what happens? The fit and able get fitter and more able and the less fit, less able, less co-ordinated get less fit, less able and (according to the Canadian researchers), more likely of being overweight. 

Governments of the world: spend your money on helping these children develop a life-long interest in sport by giving focus and priority to teaching ALL children the basic skills and then... I foresee a healthier society.