Bugs, Boats and Obesity

Busy BugsThe East Lothian Physical Activity & Health Partnership hosted a meeting on promoting physical activity in the early years on 2nd March. The positive effects of moderate physical activity on all aspects of health and well being in all age groups are clear from research.

The meeting was led off with an informal presentation by Caroline from the Active School team who spoke about her work rolling out the Busy Bugs programme in East Lothian, as well as other programmes such as Basic Moves and Kickstart.

“Busy Bugs/Top Tots helps to introduce and sustain play and physical activity as part of a daily routine for children aged two to three-and-a-half years. The programme provides new ways to keep children active at nursery and at home, through play, movement to music, basic moves and games, with a focus on enjoyment and fun! The course covers programme planning, content and management, lesson plans, resources and the evaluation and review process. It is ideal for parents, nursery, playgroup workers and anyone else working with this pre-five age group.”

The Active School Teams approach is to train people – staff and community members – to deliver these programmes, and then to provide backup and support for these staff. They have found that support is needed especially until the trainees get some experience of delivering the programmes for children under their belts. Busy Bugs has been particularly popular with nursery staff, both local authority and private sector. A gap, discussed at the meeting, has been links to communities. A positive outcome from the meeting was a connection being made with the community development service that may help with this. There is also a need to develop a train the trainers package to help disseminate Busy Bugs and other programmes further than is possible within the resources of the Active Schools team. The teams vision is that this programme becomes a part of mainstream early years provision with back up and quality assurance provided by themselves. Hence, the Active schools team would train the trainers for school, nurseries and community settings who would then train staff to deliver the programmes in the different settings.

The meeting also heard about dance initiatives for this age group, and the provision of outdoor play in the form of play parks and outdoor areas of nurseries and infant schools.  It was clear that a lot of high quality work is going on in East Lothian to promote physical activity for this age group.

The issue of obesogenic environments was also touched upon as an explanation of why children (and adults) seem to be becoming more overweight despite such excellent work taking place in schools and nurseries. Basically an obesogenic environment is one in which it is easy to access lots of calorie dense food, and difficult to burn off those calories in physical activity. Such an environment makes it very easy to  gain weight particularly if you are genetically disposed.  In terms of weight gain it can be said that ‘Genes load the gun, but the environment pulls the trigger’.

Are East Lothian communities obesogenic – and if so are we asking all the dedicated staff who provide programmes like Busy Bugs to bail out a leaky boat?