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Bay School Children To Get Puffed In New School Fitness Research Project

Hawke’s Bay schools are lining up to join in a $1.3million research project to assess the effectiveness of a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) programme.

The HIIT exercise programme will roll out in terms two and three next year in around eight of this region’s schools. It is being led by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) with support locally from Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Centre Trust.

Pau Te Hau (Get Puffed) has been developed by AUT Associate Professor Nigel Harris, and earlier this year attracted funding of $1.3million from the Health Research Council. This grant is to determine the effectiveness of embedding the teacher-delivered exercise programme within the school health and physical education curriculum.

“Essentially we want to help teachers with a practical programme that is easy to use so it becomes an integral part of the school week, and has meaningful impact on kids’ wellbeing,” says Professor Harris.

The Pau Te Hau HIIT sessions are designed for Year 6 to Year 8 children, to fit within 10 to 15 minutes, in a variety of settings, and completed two or three times a week. The objective is to achieve a target of 90 percent of estimated maximum heart rate for the students. Teachers do not need to have specific knowledge or sports skills to lead the sessions.

Children wear heart monitors, and their heart rate is displayed on an iPad with a customised app that is provided as part of the programme. This graphically shows the children whether they are hitting their target and provides strong motivation. Many sessions are underpinned by Mātauranga Māori in the form of setting the exercise to traditional Māori stories, and the use of te reo.

Next year’s project follows on from a pilot project Professor Harris ran in 2018 in Auckland schools. It was picked up in Hawke’s Bay with support from Hawke’s Bay Community Fitness Trust that runs exercise programmes with local schools. Funding for the local initiative that included seven schools was provided by Royston Health Trust.

Joe Payton, HBCFC Trust’s Health and Sport Performance Manager says Pau Te Hau was enthusiastically received by local schools and the Trust was keen to see it continued with more schools next year.

“We work with school kids all year in different programmes and we think that having an effective teacher-led programme that is easy to sustain is particularly valuable.

“Seeing the improvement in kids’ fitness levels is great but even more, that they are really wanting to move and push themselves physically is really satisfying.”

Schools in Auckland and Hawke’s Bay will be involved next year with around 850 students taking part to ensure the study is statistically valid. A follow up phase will be conducted in 2022 to assess whether the programme has been continued within the schools.

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