UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 4 | Apr.
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
The overweight child or teen may want to get fit, but just
doesnt 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 -- its
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 UBCs
Centre for Active Living and the programs 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 programs 20
participants log their workout accomplishments and answer
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
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 programs eight
trainers, who are UBC Human Kinetics exercise science students,
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
Personal coach Behnad Honarbakhsh, a third-year Human Kinetics
student who is the MET projects student manager, says
he got involved with the project because he is interested
in working with a results-oriented program for special populations
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.