Obese children get personal trainers in hope gym'll fix it

OVERWEIGHT children and their families are to be assigned personal trainers in a new bid to tackle obesity across the Lothians.

The free scheme will see youngsters aged between five and 18 referred by their GP - with their parents included to spread the fitness regime.

It comes after it emerged Lothian's schoolchildren are the fattest in Scotland, with almost one in ten classed as "clinically obese" in primary school.

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The new scheme will see a child recommended by a doctor before a one-to-one consultation takes place with a specialist to design an eight-week fitness programme.

Each trainer will take six youngsters at a time along with their parents and put them through physical exercise depending on the level of need.

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Follow-up meetings will also be arranged under the Get Going initiative, with lessons in dieting and healthy living making up part of the process.

Cath Morrison, senior health policy officer in public health medicine for NHS Lothian, said: "More and more children are heavier than is healthy for their age and height, and this can mean they are more likely to develop health problems both now and when they get older.

"Encouraging children to adopt healthy habits when they are young is the best way to ensure they stay healthy, and the best way to do this is for the whole family to maintain a healthy lifestyle."

As part of Get Going, efforts will also be made to persuade children to spend less time in front of the television and computer games consoles.

Ms Morrison added: "The Get Going programme works with children and their families to provide a fun and effective programme for children and young people who need help to achieve a healthy weight." Participating families will be given a discounted leisure card once the eight weeks are up.

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It is understood the use of council facilities during the programme will help keep costs down for the health board.

Reducing levels of obesity is key to long-term public health plans. Even now, the rising levels of overweight residents are reflected in the number of people contracting diabetes, and the scores every year who seek surgery to amend their size.

Labour's city health spokeswoman, Councillor Lesley Hinds, praised the idea.

"We have to do something about the issue and it sounds like this will encourage the children and families to help themselves," she said. "There has to be motivation to lose weight, and that responsibility lies with the individual, the parents, schools, the NHS and society in general.

"It's all about prevention - this could save the NHS a lot of money in the long term."

To volunteer your child for the scheme, phone 0131-536 0302 or e-mail [email protected]