What kind of impact does LazyTown have on kids?
LazyTown is now in 128 countries and 500 million homes, and I have had the privilege of meeting 10,000-15,000 kids a month, for the past 10 years, who tell me how great it is. What’s amazing is that if I put on the Sportacus costume, stand in a street in England, Mexico or Norway, hundreds of kids will come up to me and start moving within 10 minutes.
Why do you think other organisations have failed to do this?
I think it’s a combination of a lot of things. Sometimes it’s because they have created exercise programmes for kids, instead of games. Football for example is popular with young boys and it’s not an exercise, it’s a game, and is a bonus that it gets you fit and healthy.
What is it exactly about LazyTown that gets kids moving?
Number one is that everything the hero character Sportacus does is doable, so kids can imitate it. I don’t believe kids need to exercise at all. I think when a kid gets on a bike they’re doing it because they love it and it’s fun, and the bonus is that they’re exercising. Moving to them is so natural. It’s us grown-ups who are telling them to “sit down”, “sit still”, “don’t move”. Of course, the environment, computer games and safety come into play too, and with all these factors, parents are struggling to raise healthy kids.
What kind of movement should kids be doing?
Kids should do different types, including movement that follows rules, such as line dancing and playground games. A signal needs to be sent to the brain to do certain moves, and if you stop doing that, you stop being fit. I believe that kids need to explore opportunities to see every movement that it’s possible to make, from dancing to football to swimming. That’s our goal, especially here in England with the Olympic Games coming up and whatever legacy is going to be left behind for kids – but I don’t see that right now as it’s all about the athletes. Kids shouldn’t come second place, and if you work with kids you know that. The decision-makers never really think about kids and it’s a pity.
“Obesity went down in Iceland and, on the news, they asked the health minister the reason for it – he said ‘LazyTown’”
Do you think kids understand the brand?
86% of people in England aged from 0-55 know LazyTown. I’m not really sure if kids understand it’s about health though, because they don’t really understand health in that sense. We have to teach kids differently about health than we do with grown-ups. I think aged 0-7 are the golden years. They look up to you. After that you start to lose them a little bit, so it’s really important to treat these golden years very, very carefully. You need to think – are there fruit and vegetables around the house? Do your kids see you eating them? Do you drink a lot of water around your kids? Are you on the computer all the time and then tell them they can’t stay on the computer?
In Iceland they measure kids’ fitness – is that a good thing?
I don’t think weight should be measured, although it does give a good indicator of what is going to happen later in life. There are more people dying of obesity than accidents and cancer combined, and in England 95% of people are going to be overweight by 2050 according to a Foresight report. I don’t believe it, but that’s what it says. You shouldn’t worry kids about obesity or how they look. In my mind, kids should never know about that, but they should be motivated – for example, by telling them that if they eat an apple, they can do a push-up, instead of saying if they don’t eat healthily they’re going to get fat.
What do you think the future holds for the next generation?
I think the gap will widen between kids who are in very good and very bad shape. We should be eating regularly, every few hours, but we don’t have the time. We take a 20-minute lunch break and eat a lot, then come home at 8pm and eat a lot again. Everything around us is making us unhealthier, so I would say the future for our kids doesn’t look promising. It looks like worldwide obesity numbers will go from 300 million to 700 million, so it doesn’t look good. Obesity went down in Iceland and, on the news, they asked the health minister the reason for it – he said “LazyTown”. So now I’m working with world leaders: Michelle Obama in the US, David Cameron, the health ministers for Germany and Mexico, etc., to help them find a solution for this problem.
This feature was first printed in the February/March 2011 issue of Fitpro magazine.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Fitness Professionals Ltd or Virtual Magazine. Consult a qualified health or fitness professional before making changes to your diet or exercise.