The Courier

University lecturer to tackle childhood obesity – through weightlifting

Helen Collins.

A Dundee University sport and exercise scientist is tackling childhood obesity with a weightlifting project for youngsters.

Helen Collins is heading up the Active Strength project, which hopes to encourage children who are inactive, overweight or obese to take part in strength-based exercise.

The sessions are supervised and Helen describes them as having “countless health benefits” for children.

The initiative is a joint venture with Dundee University’s Institute of Sport and Exercise and Edinburgh University as part of Ms Collins’ PhD.

Helen is looking to recruit eight to 10-year olds to take part in the main project which follows on from a feasibility study, which included a four week trial with 12 children, which Helen says has already shown “promising results”.

The children were split into two groups of six children: one of which was actually following the programme and another that acted as a control group.

She said: “The report shows promising results with regards to improved body composition, self-confidence, movement skills, and of course, strength.

“We are working on a solution that not only tackles obesity, but improves self-confidence and movement skills, and most importantly, is fun.

“The children have said that they enjoyed the sessions.

“There are some myths that lifting weights is bad for children and it stunts growth, but there is a lot of evidence to show that it is very good for them – as long as it is supervised.

“It’s about making it fun and keeping them engaged. The programme will be adaptable over the course of the ten weeks and will change depending on what each child is capable of.

“We want to prove that they can do something and make it a bit enjoyable.”

Helen said one of the parents told her their child was “buzzing from this more than anything else he’s done” and that it could do “wonders for his confidence”.

There will be an information evening next week for people to register their interest, with the two week trial starting in earnest the following Monday.

After the trial, children will be selected to take part and the 10 week course will begin.

Helen hopes to have enough children involved to include another control group.

Helen is an accredited UKSCA coach and has been competing in weightlifting for about five years now.

She will be delivering the course with the help of fellow accredited UKSCA qualified coach Paul McPate.

The opening event takes place at the Institute of Sport and Exercise building on Monday August 20 at 6pm.

Helen can be contacted on 01382 358674 or h.m.collins@dundee.ac.uk for