Disconnect to reconnect



Grom session: Children in the Juiced Up Groms program are outside and having fun

The battle to keep kids physically active is a challenge faced by many Australian parents. The Department of Health says only one in three children are physically active every day and a further one in six children are active for the required 60 minutes of moderate physical activity. Paediatrician Dr Tom Hurley from the Sunshine Coast University Hospital knows first-hand how important it is for kids to live a healthy and active lifestyle.

Dr Hurley has been working with kids and parents for many years and says physical health is what makes a child think smarter, play happier and achieve more, socially, emotionally and academically. He says no matter what issues are prevailing, it all boils down to physical health.

“We see kids across a range of diverse pathologies, whether they’ve got asthma, whether they’ve got problems with their mobility, whether they’re obese or whatever,” he says. “We will always say, you’ve got to have some regular physical exercise in your diet, because it helps you sleep, helps your general health and helps with your mental health.”

The Queensland Government said in 2018 that more than one in four Queensland children were overweight or obese. With the inclusion of technology, children are spending less time running amok in the bright, healthy sunshine and more time sitting still with their eyes glued to a dull, dim screen.

“Technology generally seems to hold people into their own individual bubble that inhibits communication, which often stops physical exercise,” Dr Hurley says. “It really restricts kids’ social skills because they’re not interacting, they’re not negotiating, they’re not creating an atmosphere or a place in their friendships.”

According to Lifespan, children between eight and 12 are tallying four hours and 36 minutes of daily screen time, which is well above the recommended two hours. Dr Hurley says the common negative trend of technology mixed with poor parenting has significant harmful impacts on a child’s daily life.

“Kids are often spending a lot of time on video games which then becomes expected in their day where if they get disturbed by the parents, they become frustrated and angry because it’s their right to play it and sit there all day,” he says. “That’s deleterious to their general health, their mental health, their family function and their own sole function.”

Sunshine Coast-based company, Juiced Up Groms is on a mission to get kids off the couch and out into the sun with their friends. Brothers-in-law Chris Windsor and Cameron Best say kids should be running wild, scoring goals and high fiving their mates. The idea for Juiced Up Groms came over the family Christmas lunch last year and from there it’s been nothing but big smiles for themselves and the kids.

These children are getting off the couch and into life (Contributed)

Mr Best was already thriving through his school classroom visits where he promoted diet and nutrition in a kid-friendly way. His knowledge of good food and healthy eating was eagerly digested by the ravenous crowd. Why not blend the nutritious diet with an abundance of healthy activities performed in the great outdoors? The idea sprouted and has now been nurtured to grow into something really powerful to promote healthy, active kids.

Their various sessions are filled with bright colours and packed with wide smiles which create an amazing environment. Mr Best says staying active sets children up for life. “They learn to be active as a kid, they’re going to be active as an adult and they’re going to be so much better off for it, so much healthier and so much happier,” he says.

Mr Windsor says the major positives for Juiced Up Groms are that age and ability are not restrictions. “The kids are from four to 12 and all the kids seem to mix really well,” he says. “Through each course and activity, we try and make sure we get the teams cheering each other on to boost their excitement and feel good about participating in a team-based environment.”

Mr Best says this ultimately rubs off on the parents, which is something that is supported. “We really encourage the family side of things so every time they come along everyone’s high fiving and patting each other on the back which creates this real family vibe to our sessions,” he says.

Participation is the key. It unlocks a myriad of thoughts and feelings which can enhance a child’s wellbeing and develop improved social skills. Mr Best says the growth of the kids’ physical and social skills is great to witness.

“It’s amazing that at the end of the season you see the kids that rock up in the beginning are quite shy and unsure and by the end of it, they’ve made a heap of new friends and their confidence has skyrocketed so it improves their social skills as much as it does their physical health,” he says.

They are only a year into Juiced Up Groms and the two guys say they couldn’t be happier with how things are travelling. Mr Windsor says it’s a simple recipe with so much upside and positivity.

“There are simply just no negatives to it,” he says. “We’re trying to teach really basic life skills that are going to make these kids live a happier, healthier life and it’s really a simple recipe of eating good food, getting outside, drinking lots of water and moving your body. There’s nothing too crazy about it but every single parent, every single teacher, and every single kid that gets involved seems to just love it.”