YOUNGSTERS will be given the chance to kick-start a healthier lifestyle as part of a new initiative to prevent obesity.

Called Alive and Kicking, the programme is open to five to 16 year olds and sets out to advise and give youngsters practical support on diet and physical activity, helping participants to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Parents will be encouraged to participate in the sessions, which will run over three months, including cookery challenges and fun forms of exercise. Following the national trend, obesity is a growing issue in the borough and children are particularly at risk.

A recent report, published by Public Health England, shows that nearly one in five 10 to 11 year olds in Swindon are obese.

Kerry Garbutt, an administrator from Oakhurst, has enrolled on the scheme with her 11-year-old daughter Nicole.

“Parents really worry about this sort of thing and all the information on food packaging and in the media can be very confusing,” said the 32-year-old.

“I’m hoping to pick up some practical tips, which will make it easier to incorporate exercise into a daily routine and also ensure Nicole is getting a balanced diet, which is also realistic.”

“I’m not into sweet things and eat very healthily. However, it’s hard to moderate children who are less health-conscious and go for what tastes nice – things like ice cream, chocolate and crisps.

“Although I make sure Nicole gets plenty of fruit and veg at meal times, snacking in between can be a problem. She’s not hugely overweight, but because she’s very tall I’m already buying adult sizes.”

It is not just junk food which concerns her but fizzy drinks as a single can of pop can contain six teaspoons of sugar – an entire recommended daily intake.

“There are lots of conflicting messages with clever marketing, which promotes products that won’t actually do you any favours,” she said.

“Kids are under so much pressure these days to look good and size and body issues can have a massive impact on self-esteem, so it’s about improving your confidence too.

“I go to the gym and am seeing if Nicole can join me. She loves playing out on her scooter and it will be good to learn new ways to incorporate exercise into your routine. By doing it together, we’ll hopefully both get a lot out of it and it will create healthy habits for a lifetime.

“I’m looking forward to meeting other families in the process and encouraging each other.”

The twice-weekly free sessions will be held in the evening at either the Oasis or the Link Centre.

For more information about the programme or to sign up call 01793 465367 or email