A Manchester parent has praised the support of Morelife’s Junior Physical Activity Referral Service (PARS) after her son went from exercising once to four times a week.

One in four Year 6 pupils across England currently live with obesity, a 4.5% increase from the previous year, with fears that the Covid-19 pandemic has heightened the obesity crisis with less children taking part in physical activity.

PARS, which is delivered by MoreLife, a national provider of healthy lifestyle services, connects children and young people in Manchester to free and affordable activities in their local area to help manage their weight.

Moston based Blessing Emeka found out about the programme after her 9-year-old son Joel was referred to PARS by both his school Nurse and local GP. At the time, Joel was recovering from hip surgery and was on crutches which made it difficult for him to walk and engage with physical activity.

While he was able to exercise once a week, finding the right activity was a challenge and further breathing difficulties made it difficult for him to sustain regular activity, often requiring a Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help with breathing.

Through the support of a dedicated PARS practitioner, Joel was referred to the Manchester Youth Zone in Harpurhey and North City Fitness, where he was able to get involved with lots of activities starting off with Swimming, then Football and Basketball once he was off his crutches.

He went from struggling with relearning how to walk, to being able to run.

“I am so grateful and really appreciate everyone’s efforts towards the wellbeing of my son.”

Blessing Emeka, said; “I am so grateful and really appreciate everyone’s efforts towards the wellbeing of my son. I can’t thank MoreLife enough for giving me the strength on this journey and the guidance to create a healthier lifestyle for Joel. They restored hope and encouraged me to never give up, and now Joel is dancing round the house like he has found a new groove!”

While the main focus of the programme was physical activity, Joel and Blessing were also given nutritional advice that the family could use at home – so that they could maintain a balanced and healthy diet.

Furthermore, Joel received mental wellbeing support from his MoreLife practitioner to make him feel more comfortable and confident in both managing stress and keeping active.

Following the 10-week programme, Joel has seen progressive weight loss and is now partaking in physical activity four times a week – credit to his newly founded energy and confidence.

Healthier lifestyle choices have also meant that Joel is less reliant on his CPAP machine and is sleeping better, a key goal of the programme.

Professor Paul Gately, Chief Executive of MoreLife and Professor of Obesity and Exercise at Leeds Beckett University, said: “Given the current national Childhood obesity crisis, we are proud to support hundreds of families and young people across Manchester each year with the guidance and knowledge to make sustainable and healthier lifestyle changes, with the help of our community partners.

“While we know that some parents may find it difficult to ask for support, stories like this from Joel and Blessing are a great demonstration that a helping hand can go a long way to change a life and shape that pathway to better wellness. I’m sure everyone can imagine what would have happened if this vital service wasn’t available.”