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Footy fans the new recruits in WA-first project to tackle obesity

Media release

More than 100 overweight male AFL fans have committed to getting fit as part of a new WA-first project run by qualified coaches using their favourite WA team’s training facilities.

The Aussie-FIT project, funded by Healthway, is being run in partnership with the Fremantle Football Club, Curtin University, West Coast Eagles Football Club, Edith Cowan University, Glasgow University and The University of Newcastle.

Researchers have recruited 120 male AFL fans aged 35 to 65 years with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28 or higher to take part in a free 12-week health and fitness program run by coaches associated with their favourite WA AFL club.

Project Chief Investigator Dr Eleanor Quested, from the School of Psychology at Curtin University, said the new recruits are attending a 90-minute fitness and educational session once a week, either at a club training facility or at associated club facilities in Cockburn and Leederville.

“We have had an outstanding response from football fans who are looking to improve their health and fitness. The participants are enjoying the sessions, developing friendships with fellow fans of their beloved WA AFL club, and they are already starting to see some health benefits, which is really exciting,” Dr Quested said.

“We have trained the coaches to deliver weekly sessions involving an education component and a physical activity program tailored to the fan’s current fitness level.”

Fremantle Dockers Football Club Business Operations General Manager David Pitts said the Aussie-FIT program is a collaboration and research study that aims to improve the long-term health and wellbeing of Western Australian men.

“The Fremantle Dockers are a proud partner of Curtin University and we have encouraged anyone who loves AFL and falls within the research target group to participate in this exciting opportunity,” Mr Pitts said.

West Coast Eagles Community and Game Development General Manager Richard O’Connell said the club was delighted to support this initiative.

“Our 80,000 members represent a cross section of society and therefore we know there are some members who would like a little extra support in getting fitter, we are really proud to be working alongside our premier partner ECU to provide this support,” Mr O’Connell said.

“We are really happy to help share the message that a balanced lifestyle is what we all should aspire to, particularly in terms of nutrition, exercise, rest and hydration. We all enjoy an afternoon at the footy but perhaps we park the car a little further away afterwards and also enjoy the walk.”

Dr Quested said the project would provide researchers with new information about how overweight football fans respond to information about healthy eating and exercise in a bid to reduce obesity in this section of the community.

“This project is believed to be the first of its kind in Western Australia as we are directly targeting a section of the population that might not be attracted to working out in a gym setting or eating healthily,” Dr Quested said.

“By taking part in this project, we expect the fans to reduce their weight and waistline, increase their knowledge of healthy eating and different types of physical activity, learn how to sustain their new lifestyle over the longer term, and gain a unique, behind-the-scenes experience with their favourite footy club, as well as have the chance to meet a player or two.”

This project was supported by the Western Australian Health Promotion Foundation (Healthway).

Aussie-FIT builds on the highly successful Football Fans in Training program (FFIT), which now operates in more than 30 premier league soccer clubs in Scotland and has since been further developed and rolled out across Europe, as well as for other sports in other countries, such as rugby in New Zealand and ice hockey in Canada. Through this project, Aussie-FIT is being made available to men in Australia for the first time.

To find out more about this project or register your interest in taking part if further programs are delivered in the future, visit: http://www.aussiefit.org/