Parents and carers have a vital role to play in engaging their children in a healthy and active lifestyle.
Delivered over an eight week period, the Active Families programme consists of weekly one and a half hour long sports or activity sessions.
The courses are delivered by experienced coaches, with each session intended to involve at least ten families. There is a variety of physical activities including sports, cycling, ultimate frisbee, fitness circuits, dance, circus skills, and more.
The programme also has a large nutritional education element which gives the participants a greater knowledge and understanding of how to live a healthier lifestyle.
The 198 people that took part in the 2016 programme were recruited through referrals from school staff, teachers and school nurses. We mainly aim to work with those children who have weak social skills, poor health and fitness, or younger children with issues with physical development (coordination, motor skills, or strength). Poor health and obesity were identified as priorities for tackling by the participating schools.
Our project helps the children most at risk of long-term poor health by getting them to play alongside their parents, who act as role models ensuring their child continues to take part in an active, healthy lifestyle in the future.
The following report is an overview of the impact the programme had on the participants from 11 primary schools from the Erdington and North Aston areas of Birmingham.
Each programme ran for 8 weeks. The age range spanned from 4 to 60. The average age of child attendee was 8.42 and the average age of parent attendee was 38.1.
The following table details the schools that took part as well as the number of parents and children. 85.9% of the families involved took part in at least 6 of the 8 sessions.
Increase in physical activity levels and reduction in sedentary activity
The programme aimed to improve the health of both children and parents by combatting sedentary lifestyles and increasing the amount of time spent physically active each week.
Parents were asked how many times they had exercised for 30 minutes or longer in the last week as well as the number of hours their family spent per day in sedentary activities (e.g. watching TV, playing computer games, reading). The data, shown in the figure below, was collected prior to the programme and on completion.
The chart shows a 47.4% increase in activity levels for parents as a result of taking part in the programme.
Parents took part in physical activity for 30 minutes, an average of 2.4 times per week before the programme started and increased to an average of 3.5 times per week after the programme.
The data also shows a reduction of 11.7% in hours spent per night in sedentary activities. Families spent an average of 2.9 hours per night before the programme which reduced to an average of 2.5 hours after the programme.
Taking time for physical activity
Families were also asked how many days per week the family took part in physical activity together. The data is shown in the chart below.
Prior to the programme, families took part in physical activity together an average of 2.6 times per week which rose to 3.4 times per week after the programme.
The table below shows whether parents and children felt that they had spent more time exercising with their family as a direct result of the programme.
Continued physical activity
In order to encourage sustained physical activity, the programme taught families games which could be played without specialist equipment at home as well as providing them with free equipment and ideas to take away.
This was highlighted in the feedback given at the end of the programme. An example parent and child comment are shared below.
“This programme gave lots of ideas to take part in physical activities with my children and enhanced my knowledge of healthy eating”
Rizwana Jatala, Parent, St Barnabus.
“I enjoyed that you can get active with everybody and get to learn new games that are fun”
Francesca Ship, 11, Maryvale.
A wider aim of the programme was to promote healthy eating tips and considerations through the inclusion of nutritional content in each session.
In the pre and post programme questionnaires, parents were asked how many portions of fruit and vegetables they ate daily as well as the amount of unhealthy snacks (such as crisps, chocolate or cake) they consumed.
The figure below shows an increase of 38.8% of portions of fruit and vegetables eaten per day. Families recorded an average of 2.8 servings prior to the programme rising to an average of 3.8 servings after the programme.
The programme also had a positive impact on the quantity of unhealthy snacks consumed per day. Families consumed an average of 1.8 unhealthy snacks prior to the programme and an average of 1.5 unhealthy snacks after the programme; a 13.3% reduction.
The resources used on the programme included specialist equipment to support the participants’ understanding of healthy active lifestyles. Food group replicas, healthy eating plate floor mats, portion size fruit guides and key information posters were integrated into physical activity sessions to allow active learning to take place. The physically active sessions have created memorable learning experiences, as noted by a parent at St Barnabus:
“It’s been great, lots of activities that the boys have loved and a balance of information about healthy food and activities to remember that. Also we have definitely benefitted from an enthusiastic motivated and friendly teacher”
Clair Cox-Peel, Parent, St Barnabus
Furthermore, the impact data shows that parents felt their knowledge of healthy active lifestyles had improved as a direct result of the programme. Prior to taking part in Active Families, all parents were asked to rate themselves out of 10 on their knowledge of healthy active lifestyles, with 10 being an excellent knowledge and 1 being very little knowledge. The participants increased their knowledge by 21%, averaging 6.9 before the programme and improving to 8.3 after the programme, as shown in the figure below.
Strengthening home-school community link
The programme has also strengthened the home-school link for many families across Erdington.
By directly accessing the school to take part in the sessions, 95.83% of parent respondents felt that they had increased their involvement in their child’s school since the programme began.
On completion of the programme, all families were signposted to local leisure facilities and community physical activity centres as well as parks and gardens across Birmingham to foster lifelong participation in activity.
Many participants commented that the social group created through the active families programme provided encouragement to come back.
“I enjoyed the activities and the bonding with the other adults and children. The trainer was also excellent in her approach and teaching.”
Nigel Warmington, Parent 48, at Birches Green
School didn’t allocate suitable sized hall for session requirements. Percentage of families completing the programme could have been higher if the hall space was allocated for the session.
Some schools were oversubscribed with a wait list of 20 families and other schools struggled to get participants. The sessions could be very effective over 2 nights per week in certain schools.
Grandparents attended some sessions where parents were unable to attend – this could be actively encouraged.