In just a few months, one Tauranga family has become healthier, fitter and happier thanks to a new programme promoting family health.

Siblings Layla Palmer, 9, Hineata Palmer, 8, and Kahurangi Ngatai, 11, have been working together to become more active under the Active Families programme, run by Sport Bay of Plenty.

To be referred to Active Families, a child had to be aged between 5 and 18 and have a body mass index (height to weight ratio) in the 95th percentile for their age. They attend weekly sessions to learn about health and nutrition and are also encouraged to take part in events and activities such as the Weet-Bix Tryathlon, which was held yesterday.

Layla and Hineata Palmer have a lot of fun getting active. Photo/George Novak
Layla and Hineata Palmer have a lot of fun getting active. Photo/George Novak

Since taking part, the family's calendar has become a list of sport, activities and recreation.


"During school time, we do ju jitsu on Monday and Wednesday, on Tuesday we have aquafit, on Sundays we have Tryathlon training," Layla said.

"In winter, we have netball training on Tuesday and Saturday. We've also been doing lots of swimming. We go for a swim at the beach most nights and we'll go more if we can. I go bike riding most days too."

The girls took part in yesterday's Weet-Bix Tryathlon and also participated in the Rotorua event in December.

Their training involved going to Memorial Park with others in the Active Families programme. They swam in the pool, ran around the field by the skate park and biked around the park - something Layla said was hard work.

Without the Active Families programme, Layla said she did not think she would have been able to complete one Tryathlon.

"I think it's a pretty big achievement."

How does all this activity make the girls feel? When asked that question, Layla needed only one answer - a big, smiling thumbs up.

"I do get tired, but I've done something fun so it's worth it."


Hineata said all the activity was tiring, but in a good way.

"It makes me tired, but good tired. "

Moana Ngatai, Layla and Hineata's stepmother and Kahurangi's mother, said she and her partner had made an effort to be active with the children.

They coached Layla and Hineata's netball team last season and do many activities as a family.

Miss Ngatai said the family took part in as many of the Active Families events as possible.

Layla got a Fitbit, a fitness tracker worn on the wrist, for Christmas and had been proudly showing off how many steps she had taken in a day.

"We don't want to make her self-conscious - it's about getting her excited about this."

Miss Ngatai said the girls had become more energetic, which had shown itself on the netball court. They were running and jumping around more.

"We feel rewarded when they complete something and do well just participating. We definitely want them to have a go at as much as they can."

Active Families adviser Lena Kairau said it had been incredible watching the two girls come out of their shells, and also watching the ripple effect it had on their family and other families in the programme.

"The biggest thing I've recognised from them is their attitude. At first they were very shy of giving things a go. Now they just want to give everything a go. It's infectious. At first it was do we have to, now they're always first to turn up to everything."

Mrs Kairau said Active Families participants were usually referred to the programme by family doctors, although referrals could come from families themselves, teachers or schools. The child had to be signed off by their GP and Mrs Kairau gave the doctor regular reports.

Mrs Kairau said the programme did not emphasise the children's weight, rather they were encouraged to give everything a go and participate in as much activity as possible.

She praised the way Tauranga had got behind the programme, with businesses and community organisations always ready to lend a hand or offer a discount.