Children enjoy rhythm of new exercise program

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Children enjoy rhythm of new exercise program

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Published on 11 June 2013

Three University of the Sunshine Coast researchers have taken a close look at a new form of physical activity, called ZOVA, and liked what they saw.

Psychology researchers Dr Rachael Sharman and Dr Geoff Lovell and human development specialist Associate Professor Michael Nagel studied a recent six-week trial of ZOVA among primary students at Stretton State College in Brisbane.

They said the program showed promising signs that it could encourage greater physical activity, particularly among children who previously didn’t exercise much, leading to both physical and psychological benefits.

ZOVA has been developed by Brisbane-based entrepreneurs, James Tonkin and Niall McCarthy, who believe it will prove useful in education, fitness and community sectors as well as for elite athletes in major sporting teams.

Dr Sharman said unlike many school exercise programs that focus on competitive team-based sports, this new program instructed participants in sports skills using rhythm and exercises that could be done individually and in a non-competitive way.

She said 270 children aged 11-12 took part in a pre-post analysis of the program, which can be accessed at the ZOVA website.

“Children were asked to report on a number of measures before and after their participation in the six-week ZOVA program, including: time spent exercising; enjoyment of the physical education program; body image; and depression symptoms,” she said.

Dr Sharman said preliminary findings included:

  1. After participation in ZOVA, children reported small yet statistically significant improvements in several measures of body image/physical self-efficacy, as well as depression symptoms.
  2. Students also reported a small but statistically significant increase in amount of time exercising as well as an increase in enjoyment of physical exercise with ZOVA as the physical exercise program.
  3. When the group of children who originally nominated themselves as “low exercisers” were analysed separately to “high exercisers”, a statistically significant and substantial increase in exercise behaviour was reported by the “low exercisers”.

Dr Sharman said the last finding suggested that ZOVA’s “non-traditional” approach to physical exercise (not team-based and not competitive) was one of its key strengths.

“ZOVA particularly appeared to engage students who initially nominated themselves as ‘low exercisers’ and those children reported substantial increases in physical activity following their participation in the ZOVA program,” she said.

“This would appear to support the hypothesis that for students who are not engaging in traditional physical education programs that are often competitive and team-based, alternative physical activity programs can be successful in motivating them to engage in higher levels of physical activity.”

— Terry Walsh

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