Youth are thinking out of the box when it comes to leading a healthy lifestyle, thanks to the Sogo Active program.
Sogo Active is a national initiative founded in 2008 to get youth off the couch and reverse the tide of childhood obesity.
“It’s using a ‘for youth, by youth’ approach,” said Kara Misra, Sogo Active’s B.C. coordinator. “The program encourages youth to challenge themselves and their friends to get moving.”
The concept is simple. The website provides ideas to get youth moving and encourages them to come up with their own ideas and share them online.
With this program, young people can tailor their fitness routine with activities they want to do. They’re encouraged to be creative by generating their own fitness challenge. And if the activity requires funding, Sogo Active awards grants to viable proposals.
The Kamloops Boys and Girls Club is one of the 275 community host organizations that works with Sogo Active to give youth access to local facilities, equipment and expertise.
Youth leaders at the Club’s Keystone Urban Leaders program hosted a one-day challenge called Nights Alive Dance Party. A $250 Sogo Active grant helped support the event. It was a huge hit.
“During this program, they decided to have dance instructors come in from the community,” said Jennifer Dustin, Kamloops Boys and Girls Club youth programs supervisor.
“These youth were able to access dance instruction, which many of our youth have previously not had experience with.”
With hip hop and other dances offered, the event attracted 80 students, almost double their regular Friday night attendance.
Jessica Ganton-Stanley, Boys and Girls Club’s resource development coordinator, said there’s merit in getting youth involved in planning.
“They bring in their own interest. There’s a real peer mentality and a real group cohesion that happens when youth are excited about something and they can get their friends involved,” she said. And because they’ve had experience planning healthy and active events within the club, they’re more likely to keep doing those on their own, she added.
ParticipAction, who’s spearheading the initiative, did a survey between May and June this year to gauge the effectiveness of the program since its launch in December 2008.
“The survey found that more than 65 per cent of youth participating in the Sogo Active program increased their physical activity either a little or a lot. On average, these youth increased their daily physical activity by approximately 29 minutes, and approximately 90 per cent of them agreed that Sogo Active has made them care about the physical inactivity crisis,” said Diana Dampier, ParticipAction’s manager of projects.
Dampier said competing obligations, lack of transportation, cost and the influence of friends and family are some of the barriers to becoming active. Sogo Active’s microgrants assist with the financial barriers, while the peer-led physical activities help influence youth through their peers.
With the help of programs like Sogo Active, youth will have more resources to combat childhood obesity.