Physical fitness studies on Jordanian schoolchildren indicate that the Kingdom does not have a childhood obesity problem, Samer Kasieh, project manager for the King Abdullah II Award for Physical Fitness Project, said Tuesday.
The studies found that between 61 and 75 per cent of students between the ages of nine and 17 had ideal weights, he added.
In addition, body mass index (BMI) tests conducted by the education ministry and the Royal Health Awareness Society (RHAS) on students wishing to participate in the award programme found that 85 per cent of them enjoyed a normal BMI.
"Having a normal BMI will now be a prerequisite to take part in the programme in the award's seventh season," Kasieh told The Jordan Times on Tuesday.
The BMI tests are part of the students' evaluation, which tests them in basic exercise routines including curl-ups, push-ups, sit-and-reach, and shuttle and endurance runs to test whether they are physically fit enough to compete in the award programme.
The Royal initiative's seventh phase will target more than 650,000 students from government, public, military and UNRWA schools, in addition to 10 schools for students with hearing impairments, according to Kasieh.
Explaining the programme’s process, the award official said that in each school, an ad hoc committee introduces the award to the students and carries out an awareness campaign to acquaint them with its importance before recording the names of those who wish to take part in their age category.
The participants then take part in group and individual exercise sessions for one hour a day, five days a week for a period of eight weeks before the students are assessed to enrol in the award programme.
Students are then evaluated to check if they are ready to receive intensive, months-long training, after which awards are presented later in the year to the top-performing students.
Since its establishment in 2005, the project has managed to drive behavioural change among students and teachers, making physical education an essential component in the educational process.
"Now the ministry's physical fitness curriculum is officially followed as a part of the official curricula," said the project manager, adding that the Kingdom's schools now possess basic equipment that enables students to develop their athletic skills.
The passion for sports entrenched by the award has not only motivated thousands of students to adopt healthier habits, but has also helped them in enhancing their school performance by improving their self-esteem and leadership skills, according to the RHAS.