Fitter, faster, stronger: the school that changed for good
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Fitter, faster, stronger: the school that changed for good

A Canberra primary school has taken healthy living messages to a new level after smashing rates of poor nutrition, fitness and obesity in their school.

Weetangera Primary School has been labelled the SmartStart program's most successful cohort ever after recording dramatic improvements in strength, flexibility and nutrition training.

Weetangera Primary School exercise and eating program for overweight children. Kyah Churches (8), Ayva Churches (6), Olivia Milner (6) and Jonathan Jenkin (6) have improved their body composition and fitness.

Weetangera Primary School exercise and eating program for overweight children. Kyah Churches (8), Ayva Churches (6), Olivia Milner (6) and Jonathan Jenkin (6) have improved their body composition and fitness.Credit:Stuart Walmsley

A group of 22 students in kinder, and years 1 and 2 identified as needing improvement have finished a seven-week after-hours training program incorporating everything from running, jumping and gymnastics to group games and focused nutritional plans.

At the end of the program, at least 20 had improved their body composition, 19 increased their cardiovascular fitness and 17 improved power and co-ordination.

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Alinka Churches, whose daughters Ayva and Kyah both participated in the program, said she was amazed by the results. The girls were trying a greater range of fruit and vegetables, were more willing to get out and walk the dogs or play outdoors and had recorded improvements in fitness, flexibility and body composition of between 5 and 29 per cent.

''The girls were invited into the program for different reasons and I think the best part about that was that it showed them everybody has their own strengths and weaknesses,'' she said.

''They've come out of it more confident and with the knowledge that the most important thing is to just get in there, have a go and have fun.'' The results come following the release of new research showing one in four Australian children are overweight or obese.

Weetangera school principal Phil Gray said his school placed a strong emphasis on sporting and fitness as key contributors to academic success.

The school has 17 teams in soccer, cricket, basketball and AFL playing in local and interstate competitions. All those students involved were assigned a teacher as a sports mentor to ensure their marks did not slip while they were away competing.

The school also organises weekly interschool games children could elect to participate in ''just for fun''. alongside lunchtime clubs ranging from cartooning to environmental activities. ''We want to appeal to as many of the children's interest groups as possible so that school becomes a place children love to visit, and our results are outstanding because of it,'' he said.

''The students are happy, they love their teachers from running these programs for them and, as a result, they'll do anything to make their teacher happy too.''