Students pumped for healthy habits

Te Puke primary school students enjoy golden kiwifruit. Photo: Jamie Troughton / Dscribe Media.

Western Bay of Plenty children have started the New Year on the right foot, with new kicks and healthy habits.

Students at Katikati Primary took part in the Zespri Young and Healthy Virtual Adventure before Christmas and were given a new pair of sports shoes to set them on their way.

The 56 pupils joined 20,000 primary school students from across New Zealand, including 37 other Bay of Plenty schools, to participate in the five-week programme.

During the virtual adventure they gained points for healthy habits like drinking water, eating fruit and vegetables and reducing screen time.

Each child created their own avatar to represent themselves on the adventure. As small daily actions were taken in the real world, their class team progressed through the adventure, visiting various countries virtually including Japan, China and Greece.

They were also cheered on by Tauranga local and Black Caps captain Kane Williamson, rugby star Ardie Savea, hockey Olympian Samantha Charlton and former Silver Ferns captain Ameliaranne Ekenasio.

The children’s efforts saw them decrease leisure screen time by 62 per cent. Some 80 per cent of participants ate more fruit and vegetables, while 65 per cent reported their sleep quality had improved.

Programme founder Kim Harvey says mental wellbeing was a key focus for 2021’s adventure, during a year marred by lockdown for some schools.

“Some of our classes were doing daily Zoom check-ins for exercise and mindfulness,” she says.

“Plus, I was thrilled to hear that so many students convinced their whānau to participate in the adventure too, and that they supported them throughout the journey.”

Kim is delighted with the results, which highlight the importance of focusing on the wellbeing of young New Zealanders during disrupted classroom learning, but she’s calling for more to be done to improve children’s health.

“Children noticed feeling different when taking these small daily actions, providing greater awareness of positive choices to help themselves feel better.

“This is vital for both their mental and physical wellbeing and, critically, it makes it more likely for them to carry these habits into adulthood.”

“We’re so pleased to have helped support another 20,000 tamariki through the Zespri Young and Healthy Virtual Adventure this year, and to help make a real difference to the physical health and mental wellbeing of tamariki and their whānau,” says Zespri CEO Dan Mathieson.

“In a disrupted year for tamariki and their teachers, it’s fantastic to hear how our young people have embraced the adventure as well as the new, healthy habits they’ve picked up along the journey.”

The 2022 adventure is open for applications, with schools and students able to join the waitlist at: www.youngandhealthy.org.nz

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