UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 4 | Apr. 3, 2003

High Tech Exercise Offers Overweight Kids New Hope

New program first of its kind

By Hilary Thomson

They can be found standing on the sidelines in gym class, shifting from foot to foot in awkward embarrassment, uncomfortable in outfits that are either tent-like in order to conceal their generous proportions or too small, revealing so obviously what the large T-shirts were supposed to hide.

They are among the growing number of Canadian youth suffering from obesity.

The overweight child or teen may want to get fit, but just doesn’t know where to start. Jock-filled school gyms or fitness centres crammed with adults can be intimidating when you are feeling left out and struggling with low self-esteem.

Now youth with weight problems have another option -- the UBC MET Project.

The only project of its kind in Canada, the MET (short for metamorphosis) Project is an intensive and interactive exercise program for youth aged 9-16 years that offers personal coaching and an online training program between scheduled workouts. It is the only youth exercise program connected with a university and the only one to use electronic support.

“This program is about more than exercise -- it’s an education for a lifetime and represents a three-way commitment between the participant, the parent and the program staff,” says Sonya Lumholst-Smith, associate director of UBC’s Centre for Active Living and the program’s creator.

Started in January of this year, the year-long MET program operates three days a week after school with one hour of machine-aided resistance training and cardio exercises at the fitness facilities at the UBC Tennis Centre.

A key feature of the program is CoopConnect, a system of online support that can be accessed through a kiosk in the facility or through e-mail on a home computer. The program’s 20 participants log their workout accomplishments and answer questions ranging from nutrition to sleep patterns and heart rate. By clicking on an item on the activities list, they can view a video demonstration of all the exercises performed in the circuit. The documentation also allows the coaches and parents to keep track of progress and identify areas for additional support.

A 2000 study of Canadian childhood obesity, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, showed that between 1981 and 1996 the prevalence of overweight youth increased by 92 per cent in boys and 57 per cent in girls. Factors such as television and video viewing and video game use were cited as contributing to a sedentary lifestyle for kids.

“Kids love the machines, which we have scaled down to their size,” says Lumholst-Smith. “The most important ingredient is our staff -- they have been hand-picked for this project and connect so well with the participants.”

Nine-year-old Alexander Foreman says he got involved in the program to get back into shape and to meet new friends. His favourite exercise is the leg press because “it makes my legs stronger and I can run faster.”

At a private assessment session, the program’s eight trainers, who are UBC Human Kinetics exercise science students, take body measurements, set weight goals and discuss changes in diet. The last Friday of every month is the weigh-in day, although body fat loss, not weight, is the critical measure for these growing kids.

Personal coach Behnad Honarbakhsh, a third-year Human Kinetics student who is the MET project’s student manager, says he got involved with the project because he is interested in working with a results-oriented program for special populations and saw an opportunity to make a big difference.

“The energy level and enthusiasm that we create in each class is nothing short of pure magic,” says Honarbakhsh. “All the attention these kids have received in the past has been negative related to their weight. Finally, they are being told in the MET program that they can be active and that they can do it. We get tons and tons of smiles.”

Program registration is year-round and there will be special MET summer camps this year. A similar program for adults will be launched next year.

The annual fee for the 2003 MET program is $350. For more information, e-mail your postal address to ubcmetproject@yahoo.com.

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.