Kids living in the poorest parts of England are to be given pedometers to encourage them to get fit, the government has announced.
The £500,000 project will see 45,000 pedometers – gadgets which count the number of steps the wearer takes – handed out to 250 primary schools in the most deprived areas of the country.
Ministers believe giving the pedometers to children will help improve a whole family’s attitude to fitness as youngsters persuade parents to join them walking.
The project follows a pilot scheme in 50 schools which found that half the children taking part said they had become more active as a result of having pedometers.
Public health minister Caroline Flint said: ‘Simple things like going out for a walk or taking the stairs instead of a lift can all help to improve your overall physical wellbeing.
‘Using pedometers in schools has successfully encouraged children, especially those who do less exercise, to become more active.
‘It is particularly impressive that the children’s enthusiasm for pedometers has led to whole families becoming fitter as children have been so eager to improve their step count they have persuaded their parents to do things like go walking with them, or join an exercise club.’
The Department of Health said that nearly two-thirds of pupils taking part in the pilot scheme felt the pedometers created more interest in fitness issues within their schools.
Their step counts increased steadily from an average of 8,355 steps a day to an average of 13,939 at the end of the 23 week programme.
Schools minister Jim Knight said the devices could make walking ‘more fun for children’.
He added: ‘Good habits started early can help children maintain a healthy lifestyle through their adult lives.
‘Schools are already increasing children’s activity levels by boosting the opportunities to take part in PE and school sport.
‘Pedometers can be especially effective in encouraging young people to be active out of school hours and at weekends.’