Northumberland NHS Trust helps kids get fit

A health trust has been helping families in the North East get active this summer. Health Reporter Helen Rae explains more

Children take part in the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Get Active Northumberland (GAN) programme
Children take part in the Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Get Active Northumberland (GAN) programme

Families in the North East have been given a helping hand from the NHS to lead a healthier lifestyle this summer as they are encouraged to get more active.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust’s Get Active Northumberland (GAN) programme ran a week-long course to encourage parents and children to improve their fitness levels.

The scheme, for children aged five to 13 years old and their parents, was held in Ashington and involved fun physical activities, including cycling and learning about healthy eating.

Helen Prytherch, health improvement manager at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The week has been a great success. It was fantastic to see the children and their parents taking part in the activities and joining a bike ride and, above all, having a lot of fun.

“They also really enjoyed the cooking sessions and having a go at making healthy meals and snacks while learning about the importance of eating fruit and vegetables and having appropriate portion sizes.


“We hope that the children and adults now take what they’ve learnt home and lead a healthier lifestyle.”

The cycling aspect of the scheme was run in partnership with community cycling group WATBike and proved to be a big hit with participants.

Colin Hall, cycling and training officer at WATBike, said: “We were pleased to be part of the programme and help spread the word that cycling is a great fun activity that can be enjoyed by all members of the community.

“In south-east Northumberland there are many tracks which are perfect for families to get out and about and do exercise together.”

Participants on the course included Marie Kelly and her daughter Jessica, eight, from Ashington, Northumberland .

Marie said: “The week’s been brilliant and we’ve both really enjoyed it.

“It’s really opened our eyes to the fat and sugar content of foods and portion sizes and as a result we’ll be making changes to our everyday lives.”

Barbara Diawara, from Bedlington, Northumberland, attended with her daughter Sirandou, nine. Barbara, 48, said: “It’s been a great week and a lot of fun. It’s really encouraged us both to be more active and eat more healthily.

“The GAN programme really works for Sirandou. She really enjoys taking part in the activities and as a result has lost weight and has a lot more confidence.

“When she’s at home she’s always asking to go outside and play in the park and when we were on holiday she was active from the moment she woke up to the moment she went to bed – that’s all down to the programme.

“She’s also a lot more aware of what she eats and drinks and whereas before she would have had a sugary drink and sweets, she now has water and fruit. It’s all making such a difference.”

The week was part of a series of initiatives which run across the county for children and their parents.

The GAN programme – one of Northumbria Healthcare’s community health services – supports parents, children and young people who are concerned about their weight in making positive changes to their lifestyles.

Programmes are planned for Berwick and Cramlington for the autumn with the aim of getting as many families as possible to get fitter.

Catherine Archer’s children Caitlyn 10, Lewis, nine, and five-year-old Emma attended the GAN activity week.

Mother-of-three Catherine, 35, a nail technician from Bedlington Station, Northumberland , said: “I was really keen for the kids to attend the week as I wanted them to learn more about healthy eating and see which exercise games we can do as a family to get us all more active.

“It was absolutely fantastic. The kids really enjoyed it and I loved seeing them have so much fun.

“Emma learned how to ride her bike without stabilisers at the WATBike session and since the week I’ve bought a bike so we can all go out on a ride together as a family.

“The children really liked the cooking sessions too and learning about healthy eating and they realised they actually like fruit and vegetables!

“As with most boys, it is difficult to get Lewis away from his computer games. However, since the week he’s been playing outside a lot more and being more active which is great news.”

One year on from the Olympics, more than half of adults in the North East are doing the recommended amount of physical activity, but there are still people who are not doing enough exercise.

Latest statistics from the Department of Health show that 30.1% of adults in the North East are active for less than 30 minutes per week – prompting a call from Public Health Minister Anna Soubry for everyone to get up and get active.

To encourage this, Government yesterday announced more than £5m of funding to encourage children and families to exercise more.

 Anna Soubry said: “It’s fantastic that more than half of adults in the North East are doing the recommended amount of physical activity, but I am shocked that 30.1% are not getting even 30 minutes of exercise a week.

“We were all inspired by the Olympics and as part of its legacy we want to encourage everyone – children and adults – to get active and get healthy.

“We’re committed to doing everything we can to help people lead longer, healthier lives, which is why for the first time ever, we’ve given local authorities increased and ring-fenced budgets to tackle public health issues in their local area.”

The Youth Sport Trust will use £3m of the cash to extend Change4Life School Sports Clubs to areas with the highest childhood obesity, building on the success of the 8,000 clubs already established across the country. In the North East, 340 primary schools will benefit from this funding.

Last year, more than 100,000 children and young people took part in Change4Life sports clubs around the country, with double the amount of primary school children that attended exercising for an hour a day.

Chief executive of the Youth Sport Trust John Steele said: “This new funding is a major boost and will help to build an even stronger network of school sport clubs across the country, offering young people the opportunity to try a range of new sports.

“Supporting schools to engage less active children in physical activity and school sport and making this fun is vital to ensure they go on to lead healthy active lifestyles.

“We know that young people were inspired by what they saw last year, so now we need to turn this inspiration into participation; we don’t want them put off physical activity for life.”

Play England will use their £1.1m to support residents and encourage children and families to actively play together on their streets, reviving old favourites like hopscotch and hide-and-seek. This funding will enable Play England help residents close their roads from time to time to allow children and families to play out in a safer environment.

Earlier this year, the Government also announced £300m of investment which will go straight to  primary school headteachers to spend on improving sport and PE provision and encouraging healthy lifestyles for their pupils over the next couple of years.

Two years ago, The Journal joined forces with Nova International to launch our Great North Fitness Revolution.

The Great North Fitness Revolution is challenging everyone to make a pledge to get active and make the positive changes that will lead to a better quality of life.

From training for the Great North Run to something as simple as increasing the number of steps you walk each day, everyone can get involved.

The Great North Fitness Revolution received the backing of a host of famous faces, including TV presenter Ben Shephard, Olympic boxer Tony Jeffries, athlete Steve Cram and former Sunderland chairman Niall Quinn.

Ms Prytherch, health  improvement manager, said: “We happily support the Great North Fitness Revolution as it is a good way to encourage people to get active. The campaign gives families a flavour of things that they can do to increase their physical activity.”

 For  information about Get Active Northumberland call 01670 784 183 or email


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer