Why the BBC is using the Heaton Goonies bike club in Newcastle as an example to the UK

The programme reveals the unfittest child in a class 20 years ago would today be one of the fittest

A Newcastle bike club for kids is being used as an example of how to get the young fit in a BBC TV programme.

The Heaton Goonies is the brainchild of dad Dean Holmes and has proved a huge hit with local youngsters who ride several times a week.

Its success is being highlighted in the programme on Monday as way to deal with figures that show a child considered unfit 20 years ago would today be rated one of the fittest among their peers.

The astonishing research features in a special BBC Inside Out to mark the launch of Super Movers, a campaign delivered by the BBC in partnership with the Premier League.

It shows a dramatic decrease in levels of childhood fitness in the past two decades. The decline is so great that the least fit child in a class of 30 tested in 1998 would be among the five fittest in a class of 30 children tested today.

Dr Gavin Sandercock, a sports scientist at the University of Essex, has found that a shift from active outdoor play toward sedentary, screen-based pastimes means today’s schoolchildren are the first generation since the Second World War , who are less fit than their parents.

He said: “If we could time travel to hold a one-mile race so today’s parents and their children were both 10 years-old, mums and dads would win it by about 90 seconds.

“In more affluent areas there are only one or two obese children per primary school class – and this figure is falling.

“In contrast, about a third of children have clinically low aerobic fitness (stamina). We’ve been monitoring the fitness and physical activity habits of children in Essex for nearly two decades and this figure has continued to increase – so that today there are 10-12 unfit children per class of 30.”

Dr Sandercock said the growing level of unfitness is despite the fact today’s kids consume 30% fewer calories than their parents 20 years ago.

He said: “The biggest difference between children of today and their parents is what they do with their time; less of which is spent outside and more of which is spent indoors on sedentary pursuits involving screen-based media.

“We used to worry about children having a TV in their bedroom, but research shows 13-year-olds today often own five to six electronic devices and can choose from between 9 and 10 different ways to access electronic media.”

Viewers will be able to see the Heaton Goonies as a way to counter the problem. With ages ranging between six and 16, the special ‘biking family’ aims to keep them out of trouble and off the streets.

The kids – who call Dean “Papa Goonie” – are out nearly every day. As well as inner city rides, the group’s planning longer trips out to the coast, and also looking at healthy eating and team building activities.

Dean says the kids are fitter, healthier, making friends and he’s already seeing a boost to their confidence and social skills.

  • Super Movers can be watched as part of Inside Out on BBC One at 7.30pm on January 22

Chronicle  By Mike Kelly

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