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Saferoller Smart-Belay3

Skywalker develops new incentives to get kids active in nature

Now it's official: One in four children in Europe is now overweight or obese. The reasons for this are manifold, and, by no means, undisputed: unhealthy food heavily advertised and marketed to children through TV and other media on a daily basis, neglectful and ignorant parents, and the continuous decline of PE in schools over the past decade in every European country. Whatever the root of the problem, nowadays children and teenagers are as physically inactive and sedentary as no generation before them.

"Unfortunately, there is more bad news. A whole range of studies has shown that inactive children grow into inactive adults," adds Ewout van Voorst, Managing Director of Skywalker, a company specialising in the design of high ropes adventure parks. "With the well known consequences: obesity, diabetes, heart diseases, chronic illness, all of which already are a huge economic burden for the national health services of many countries." One of the reasons that the issue has officially been recognised. "A number of governments and local authorities across Europe has now responded by initiating or sponsoring activity programs for children and teenagers, to tackle the widespread problem of unhealthy lifestyle choices amongst the younger generation," says van Voorst.

"Most people agree that we cannot blame a lack of opportunities for the high level of physical inactivity observed in our children these days," explains van Voorst. "The key objective is motivating the young generation to give it a go. However, any sort of pressure, performance- or otherwise, has to be avoided."

social media

According to van Voorst, the biggest challenge is the common view among children and teenagers that genuine entertainment is only provided by TV, internet and computer games. "Quite understandable," admits van Voorst. "PCs, smartphones, connecting with friends through social network sites is an integral part of growing up these days. Which means that we need to convince the young generation that being physically active , preferable in a group of friends, and can be as much fun as watching TV, movies, online chats, or firing up your PS or Xbox."

However, and as far as the Dutch specialist firm is concerned, nothing but a strictly non-confrontational approach will do. "Actually, we strongly believe that online networking and physical activity are not mutually exclusive," states van Voorst. "In this context, we are currently looking into various ways of incorporating the entertainment factor provided by social media into high ropes courses. This also includes boosting participant's self-confidence, creating team spirit, and furthering interpersonal skills when it comes to team work."

One of these approaches links completing climbing courses with group tasks, such as the retrieval of a code which, by being entered into a smartphone app, will reveal the next group objective if all participants of the group have successfully tackled the course. A related approach is aimed at teams consisting of two or three participants, who are tackling different courses at the same time, with the leader board, individual team position and current score available through social media apps. "This approach can be further extended into a friendly long-term competition, running over the entire summer, with a sort of league table listing the best performances of the current season."

About Skywalker Adventure Builders:

Creating extraordinary High-Rope Adventures: Skywalker develops up-market concepts for Family Entertainment Centers (FEC) and Outdoor activity sites and manufactures ECO forest high-wire parks, high ropes courses, adventure towers, outdoor playgrounds and adventure parks. Experience, innovative design, high quality, and the safety and durability of their products earmark Skywalker as one of the leading manufacturers of adventurous leisure facilities in Europe. The unique services portfolio, combined with ERCA (European Ropes Course Association) certified training programs, enables customers to run a safe and profitable operation with a fast ROI.