astley sports

Astley Sports Village

Astley Sports Village in Dukinfield, Cheshire, owned by secondary school Astley Sports College, has launched an innovative programme – Make a Difference (M.A.D.) - to tackle childhood obesity, with impressive results.

“There are lots of reasons why children become overweight and eat unhealthy foods. We want to help them choose the right pathway to improve their health and wellbeing and make a difference to their lives,” states Mark Storie, Director of Astley Sports Village and M.A.D. programme coordinator.

M.A.D. was created to help re-educate young people to participate in sport or activities with their classroom peers, support them with associated emotional issues and encourage them to be health conscious and take on a healthy lifestyle.

Students that meet the M.A.D. guidelines of being significantly overweight, in-active and having low self-confidence, participate in a 10-week programme using their once-a-week tutorial periods to visit Astley Sports Village for an hour of group physical activity such as basketball or dodgeball, followed by a 30-minute session in the gym.

Pupils exercise in the newly refurbished 150 sq m fitness suite, which features state-of-the-art Precor equipment, all equipped with Preva networked fitness, a cloud-based software platform that helps both gym operators and exercisers achieve their goals. They also use integrated RFID tags, giving access to the fitness suite, lockers, all programmes on the Precor equipment and Preva, so they can monitor their workout progress.

A commitment to fitness:

Storie comments: “It’s essential to provide a fun team work environment, but pupils also need to engage in the fitness suite with a more independent effort and commitment and use the machines on their own.

“Students are drawn to the high level of technology provided by Precor equipment. Preva Personal Accounts enables them to input a long-term focus, such as losing weight, and set targets, such as distance or calories. They can monitor their progress with the weekly goal summary, which even indicates if they’re on or off target, giving them a visual reminder they can work to achieve. They can strive for milestone badges too. They love they can access their data via the app on their mobile phones and iPads, and the fact they can access their favourite TV programmes and listen to bands via the equipment while they workout. 

Why it works:

Students are encouraged to be active by running, throwing and catching, and to try to ensure their team wins whichever game is being played. The motivation for this is one of the biggest barriers students need to overcome Storie states: “It’s a big thing to get them to actually want to run for that ball and win that catch against a fellow student.”

The Sports Village experts are essential for the planning of activities and their knowledge of fitness and skills helps students to achieve not only weight loss, but improvements in their cardiovascular system, reduce their resting heart rate and see the transformation in their body shapes.

A healthy diet and a new way of thinking:

Nutrition education is also vital, as pre-programmed eating habits follow the path of processed foods, fast food, a lack of essential nutrients and sensible intake times. Students attend an after school nutrition and planning session covering food sources, meal plans, times scales of sensible food intake and portion control and receive a weekly food diary to complete. A supermarket visit is also organised to choose their dinner for that night, which helps them explore the variety of healthy yet tasty meals.

A Resounding Success:

“These young people have now developed ownership of their lifestyles and choose good nutritional options along with significantly increasing their daily activity levels to meet the target of at least 5 x 30 minutes a week,” says Storie.

All the group have improved their health and wellbeing, lost body fat and improved their cardiovascular system. More importantly their outlook has changed and self-confidence has been raised along with self-esteem. PE teachers feedback that ‘M.A.D. kids are now more active and committed to their PE lessons and don’t feel intimidated by their PE groups’. Parents play a pivotal role and feedback shows students have made new friends in and out of school, take more pride in their appearance and are eager to share their workout success and data at home.

“This is an essential part of the transition to leading a healthy lifestyle and wellbeing mind set when they are away from the M.A.D. timetabled sessions,” says Storie. “During the holidays students continue to train in the gym, even though this is their free time. Our community members are encouraged to see a school promote and engage students, and we now aim to roll the programme out to other schools and local authorities so they too can make a positive difference to young people’s lives.”

Commenting on the success fantastic project Head of Membership for REPs, Greg Small added:

“It’s is fantastic to see schools and facilities looking to make a difference and opening a gateway of exercise, health and fitness and potential life changing education to children. Moves towards grass route re-education and inclusion are welcomed by REPs and we look forward to the success of these M.A.D graduates”

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