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On Thursday 3 July the Institute of Sport Exercise and Health (ISEH) hosted a conference to launch a new initiative, Camden Active Spaces, which aims to inspire schoolchildren to be more active, via good playground design and use of outdoor space.

As part of the project, which is being delivered by the ISEH in partnership with UCL and Camden Council, designers have worked with children in six schools across Camden to design unique structures for their playgrounds. These will be built over the summer holidays ready for the new school year, with the aim of inspiring children and their families to be more active and healthy. Increasingly, sedentary lifestyles are threatening the nation’s health, so the aim is to encourage younger people to exercise by giving them an alternative to playing indoors and ‘screen time.’

Following a welcome by Professor Fares Haddad, Clinical Director, the ISEH and Fiona Dean, Assistant Director Culture & Environment, London Borough of Camden, conference attendees heard from Professor Ashley Cooper, University of Bristol, on encouraging physical activity in young people; William Roberts, Director of Strategy and Planning, NHS Camden Clinical Commissioning Group and Charlotte Ashton, Camden and Islington Public Health, gave an overview of the project and showed delegates some of the playground designs.

Dr Mark Hamer from UCL’s Physical Activity Research Group (PARG) spoke about monitoring and evaluating Camden Active Spaces. Funded by a grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) the research team, led by Dr Hamer and including the ISEH’s Dr Courtney Kipps, will measure physical activity levels over time for a group of nearly 200 children aged six to fifteen years. To record their activity, each participating child will be given an ‘actigraph accelerometer’ to be worn around the waist.

Attendees then participated in a Q&A session chaired by Nigel Robinson, Head of Sport & Physical Activity, Camden; Professor Fares Haddad, ISEH; and Professor Ashley Cooper.

Professor Fares Haddad, Clinical Director, ISEH, commented: “The Camden Active Spaces conference highlighted what can be achieved by working in collaboration. The biggest enemy to good health is physical inactivity; this project will hopefully enhance the lives of many young people, their families, and their communities.”

You can follow the project on Twitter via #CamdenActiveSpaces