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Turning Child’s Play into Lifelong Habits

Turning Child’s Play into Lifelong Habits

With the global obesity epidemic showing no signs of abating, one potential solution lies in targeting children at an early age and showing them how physical activity can be fun – so that they fall in love with it, forever.
Youth Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that children and adolescents should accumulate a minimum of 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day and yet statistics show that most children fall tragically short of this. As we battle to draw their attention away from screens and get them active, finding a solution to keep children engaged is key.

One program that is showing real potential is BORN TO MOVE™, a series of movement-based classes developed by Les Mills. A recent study has shown BORN TO MOVE to be measurably effective in lifting both children’s physical performance and their motivation levels.

The study, carried out by Les Mills and the United Kingdom’s Edge Hill University, involved 10 and 11 year olds from four schools. Two schools acted as a control and continued with their regular two physical education classes a week. The other two delivered two BORN TO MOVE classes a week, over a period of six weeks.

Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, explains that for those children involved in the BORN TO MOVE program there was a real improvement in the level of intrinsic motivation. “This highlights that the secret to getting children to move more is to get them to want to exercise – to fall in love with fitness – so that the motivation is coming from within.

“The key finding was the level of intrinsic motivation that improved in the kids as a result of doing BORN TO MOVE, as opposed to carrying on with their normal physical education classes.”

Importantly, the children involved with BORN TO MOVE participated in significantly more moderate intensity physical activity and total physical activity than the children in the comparison schools did in their regular PE lessons. While the study found the children’s physical abilities also improved over the six weeks of participation, it was the increase in their enjoyment of exercise that offered the greatest cause for optimism.

“The classes are fun, action-packed and social,” says Bryce. “The buzz of learning new moves, fresh routines, plus the excitement of being in a group all ensure the classes instil a love of being physically active from an early age. They include easy to follow exercises and games, set to age-specific music.

“The program is designed to maximize the group effect,” Bryce explains, “It keeps the kids engaged and gives them a variety of movement patterns that everyone can tap into. Their self-efficacy scores are higher too, which means the kids are confident in their abilities.”

BORN TO MOVE employs a variety of activity and age/gender-targeted levels of engagement to appeal to all children – even the ones who might ordinarily be left out of traditional physical education classes due to their lack of confidence or ability.

“It means they are more likely to come back and do it again,” says Bryce. “The big metric for children is what is called ‘moderate to vigorous physical activity’ – MVPA – and ideally they should be involved in an hour of that every day. So BORN TO MOVE contributes to their MVPA, plus it encourages them to do that kind of activity outside of the program.”

Bryce stresses that this would only be part of a wider solution to the big problems around children’s physical activity and motivation, the instructor expertize and research-based programs offered by Les Mills might at least be “an answer to part of the puzzle”.

Notes to editors. The full study, titled “A non-equivalent group pilot trial of a school-based physical activity and fitness intervention for 10–11 year old English children: born to move” is available here.


BORN TO MOVE is a series of movement-based classes segmented into five age groups, with music and choreography designed to meet the unique needs of each developmental stage, from toddlers to teens. The classes are updated three times a year and are designed to plug into young people’s innate need to move. They build confidence and foundation fitness skills through movement, imagination and games that are set to the magic of music.

The initiative is led by Dr Jackie Mills MD, a fitness and nutrition expert who heads Les Mills’ creative team. Program development is managed by Anna Zahn, a Child Movement Specialist and Janine Phillips, a specialist in fitness training with 25 years’ experience. Teenagers Taine and Corrah Phillips provide valuable input into the music and choreography.

About Les Mills

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