Obese children are told to get dancing

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Indy Lifestyle Online

After the government chief medical officer's warning that overweight children are a "timebomb" for the NHS, Tessa Jowell, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, is preparing an autumn fitness drive in schools based on dance.

A source close to Ms Jowell said that dancing has long been neglected, although the Government recently set up a new quango, Youth Dance England, to help it escape its association with small girls and ballet classes.

"We aim to promote all forms of dancing and we're taking it seriously. It is excellent exercise," he said. "It is popular with girls, including those from ethnic minorities, who sometimes shy away from other organised sport."

Ms Jowell is already taking advice from dance teachers on how to increase physical activity among the young in order to meet the Government's target of halting the year-on-year increase in obesity among primary school children by 2010.

Linda Jasper, the director of Youth Dance England, said research shows that dancing is overwhelmingly the most popular sport for girls, and ranks second, after football, for girls and boys combined. "It's an important element in the fitness drive," she said.