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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 March 2007, 13:45 GMT
Dance 'could keep young healthy'
Dance class
Dancing is good for 'body and mind'
Dance classes could be a good way to tackle childhood obesity, say ministers.

Public health minister Caroline Flint and culture minister David Lammy touted the idea on a visit to the Laban dance centre in London.

They highlighted research by Laban which found children who dance enjoy physical and psychological benefits.

The researchers said creative dance should be considered as an alternative to sport for children.

They said it might encourage girls who have no interest in sport, or other physical activities, to stay healthy.

A separate study by the University of Bristol found that a small amount of moderate exercise a day could have far-reaching benefits for children.

They found that an extra 15 minutes of the type of exercise associated with playing sport a day could halve the risk of obesity in boys, and cut it by almost 40% in girls.

At present, boys have just 25 minutes of exercise a day, and girls only 16 minutes.

Mr Lammy, speaking at the dance centre based in Deptford, said it was estimated that 20% of young people would be obese by 2010.

He said: "We are convinced dance can play a key role in dealing with that problem."

Best for girls

The Laban study assessed the effects of a 10-week dance programme on 348 children aged 11 to 14 in the Hampshire region.

The researchers found that allowing children to express themselves through movement increased their lung and aerobic capacity and flexibility.

Girls were found to benefit physiologically more than boys from the activity.

A psychological assessment found the programme improved self esteem, motivation, and attitude towards dance as a form of physical activity.

Researcher Emma Redding said there were a number of reasons why girls might have got more out of the course.

"They were not as fit as the boys initially. A lot of them were overweight and a lot didn't access physical activity - they were not the kind of girls that wanted to do sport.

"They also seemed to get a greater sense of enjoyment than the boys, with a high level placing importance on dance."

Dr Andy Ness, who led the Bristol study, said it was not necessary for children to work-out all the time to get fit.

He said: "This study suggests that modest differences in activity level could lead to a substantial reduction in obesity risk."

Being obese is usually defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or more.

BMI is worked out by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.


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