Health chiefs launch Disney-themed games to encourage children to exercise in latest bid to halt spiralling obesity crisis

Health bosses have launched a series of Disney-themed exercise games aimed at young children in their latest bid to curb Britain’s spiraling childhood obesity crisis.

The 28 team-based activities are inspired by family favourites such as Toy Story, The Lion King, Frozen and The Incredibles.

Information packs with how to play the 10-minute games will be handed out across 16,500 state schools in England over summer.

Pupils will be encouraged to take the games, such as Elsa’s Freeze Tag, home and play them to stay active during the holidays.

Public Health England hope the games will push children towards the 60 minutes of exercise they need every day.

The NHS says youngsters between five and 18 need a minimum of one hour of exercise – ranging from moderate to vigorous – each day.

This can include cycling and playground activities to running and playing football or tennis.

According to NHS figures, just over a third – about 170,000 – of the half a million children who left primary school last year were overweight to some degree.

One in five leavers were obese, equivalent to 111,290 pupils. This includes 4.1 per cent, equivalent to 22,646 pupils, who were severely obese.

Youngsters are twice as likely to be dangerously obese aged 11 as when they started in reception class aged four.

This is despite hundreds of millions being poured into healthier school meals, new PE equipment and extra sports coaches.

The NHS recommends at least an hour of physical activity ranging from moderate activity, such as cycling and playground games, to vigorous activity, such as running and tennis.

The games are being rolled out as part of the Change4Life 10 Minute Shake Up campaign by Public Health England, Disney UK and Sports England.

Elsa’s Freeze Tag, inspired by Frozen, sees one youngster play the Disney princess while the rest of the group run away.

If ‘tagged’, players have to stand frozen in one spot with their legs wide open and wait for someone to crawl under them to free them.

Buzz’s Space Run, based on the space ranger from the Toy Story series, requires players to stand in a line with their arms stretched out wide like Buzz’s wings.

They then have to do three laps – one facing forward, one backwards and a third by sidestepping.

Other games include an Incredibles-themed dodgeball and a Toy Story variation of hide and seek.

Eustace de Sousa, national lead for children, young people and families at Public Health England, said: ‘Across England, children’s physical activity levels are worryingly low, with only a fifth of boys meeting the guidelines and an even smaller number of girls.

‘We must combat this or risk facing a generation of inactive children who won’t experience the wide health and wellbeing benefits of physical activity.

‘Getting children into the habit of doing fun, short bursts of activity can set them up for life by improving not just their physical health but also helping them develop key life skills.’

Marianthi O’Dwyer, vice president and head of Disney Healthy Living UK said: ‘We are in a unique position to inspire families and children to be more active through our characters and the stories they tell.

‘It’s as simple as designing 10 Minute Shake Up games based on fresh or much-loved Disney content to tap into children’s imaginations and get them moving more.

‘We are excited to work with Change4Life for our sixth year on the 10 Minute Shake Up programme and to use the power of our characters as a force for good.’

The 10 Minute Shake Up campaign is being supported by McFly bandmember Danny Jones.

The father-of-one said: ‘I’m really surprised to see how few kids are getting active. When I was a kid, I loved being outside and being active, whether it was playing football or going on bike rides with my family.

‘I didn’t realise at the time but being active was really important for more than just my physical health; it helped me to make friends and feel part of a group.

‘As I got older, I began to realise that it also helped me to cope with anxiety and now it’s a huge part of my routine.’

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England’s CEO said: ‘Our recent research gives us the richest evidence yet that sport and physical activity needs to be fun and enjoyable above all because enjoyment is the biggest motivator for children in getting active.

‘The Change4Life 10 Minute Shake Up games fit that brief to a tee with children’s favourite Disney characters encouraging them to move more.

‘Sport England are delighted to be investing £1 million of National Lottery funding to support the Shake Up games in our mission to help children build a positive attitude to physical activity.’