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BBC Scotland's Morag Kinniburgh
"Almost 3m of Lottery money is being made available to schools and community centres"
 real 28k

Stewart Harris, Sportscotland
"If we invest in young people now they are likely to pick up good habits for the future"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 22 February, 2000, 14:10 GMT
Defusing Scotland's 'timebomb'

Children at play
Children have new equipment to help them get fit

Worrying figures about child health in Scotland have prompted the launch of a 2.8m campaign to encourage youngsters to watch less TV and do more exercise.

The Sportscotland initiative will see lottery money ploughed into defusing a "health time bomb" which is creating a nation of couch potatoes.

It follows research last year by Ninewells Hospital in Dundee which revealed that a quarter of Scottish 11 to 14-year-olds were beginning to show signs of heart disease not normally expected until middle-age.

We found obesity was much more common than we expected - especially amongst children of a pre-school age
Dr John Reilly
Another study by senior lecturer Dr John Reilly at Yorkhill Hospital in Glasgow found child obesity among children aged between two and 15 had more than doubled in the past 10 years.

More than 700,000 will be given out annually over the next four years to support the programme, which will encourage four to 12-year-olds to become more active.

Primary school teachers and community leaders will also receive training and resources to help them deliver physical education and sport programmes in schools.

Dr Reilly said: "We found obesity was much more common than we expected - especially amongst children of a pre-school age.

'Fitness programme needed'

"The Sportscotland programme is exactly the kind of thing that is required for the nation's primary schools. Anything that encourages physical activity should be welcomed.

"The increase in child obesity cannot only be attributed to children eating more but also significantly to their lack of exercise."

The programme is also aimed at bringing primary schools in line with a Scotland-wide strategy, Sport 21, for creating a healthy nation.

Children watching TV The fear is that children are becoming "couch potatoes"
Sportscotland chairman Alastair Dempster said: "If we are to tackle Scotland's health time bomb we have to get our children active now.

"We also have to ensure it is fun and a quality experience so they remain active throughout their life.

"Investment in giving teachers and community leaders the training and specialist equipment to get Scots active at a young age will pay massive dividends further down the line in terms of quality of life for these individuals and for our nation's spiralling health bills."

The programme, which has been established by the Youth Sport Trust in partnership with Sportscotland, has been developed to target two separate groups.

Child-friendly equipment

An early enthusiasm for play among four to nine-year-olds will be nurtured into an interest for sports.

This will be done with the help of child-friendly, multi-coloured equipment such as mini rackets, bats, balls, beanbags and markers.

The youngsters will then move on to TOP Sport, for seven to 12-year-olds, which aims to familiarise students with six sports - basketball, cricket, hockey, netball, rugby and tennis.

Girl exercising The programme hopes to encourage fitness and fun
They will also have access to athletics, fitness, swimming, gymnastics, dance and outdoor activities.

A phased pilot programme in Angus, Dundee, East Lothian, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Highlands, Renfrewshire, Borders, Stirling and Western Isles has seen 165 primary schools using the TOP programme resource cards and equipment.

About 1,200 primary teachers are already trained for the scheme and 25 programme trainers qualified to deliver courses locally.

Spotscotland has also embarked on a plan to put sports co-ordinators in every secondary school in Scotland with the task of developing sporting opportunities.

Since the introduction of a sport co-ordinator at Arbroath Academy the number of teenagers taking part in after school sport and physical activity has risen from 50 to 250 out of the school's 600 students.

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See also:
25 Jan 00 |  Health
Warning of 'child obesity epidemic'
17 Feb 00 |  Health
Pumping iron 'strengthens the heart'
10 Feb 00 |  Scotland
Heart packs to attack disease
28 Jan 00 |  Health
Fat VAT 'could save lives'

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