VANCOUVER – When nine-year-old Viaan Deol goes to bhangra lessons twice per week, his favourite part is seeing all the chums he’s constructed from different schools in Surrey, B.C.
His mom, Raj Kaur, is thrilled he’s getting more physically fit and connecting to his Punjabi roots throughout the hour-long, high-energy classes at a dance school.
“In the event that they stay home, they simply watch TV and sit and eat. They don’t do another activity,” Kaur said of Viaan and his five-year-old brother Jaivir Deol, who was desirous to follow his older sibling into the world of bhangra, a folk dance that originated within the Punjab province of India to rejoice the harvest.
Viaan was initially more into the music than the moves of the normal dance he began at age 4 but has since performed in some local shows and likes jumping in on the bhangra motion at weddings and parties, he said.
“You may have to get every step right. I feel like I get an excellent workout.”
Kaur said she thinks each of her sons are getting big fitness advantages from bhangra lessons at an area dance academy.
While Viaan’s parents enrolled him in lessons outside of faculty, the outcomes of a pilot project at 4 elementary schools suggest bhangra provides aerobic advantages.
Dr. Tricia Tang, a research investigator with the BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute, led the pilot that had 156 students attending twice-weekly bhangra lessons for seven months.
The small pilot was a part of an after-school program at three schools in Surrey and one other in neighbouring Delta, a region with a high South Asian population, which is at higher risk than other groups for heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Results published last June within the journal Childhood Obesity show improvement in aerobic fitness, which was measured using a 20-metre shuttle run test, vertical jump heights, waist circumference and body mass index, or BMI.
“The typical laps our group as an entire was in a position to complete was 19. After the seven-month intervention, the mean variety of laps was 26, which is phenomenal,” Tang said of the pilot between November 2017 and May 2018.
Nonetheless, a pilot study doesn’t show causation so what’s needed is a randomized control trial to offer empirical evidence of the early intervention involving way more schools and students, she said.
Research is lacking in Canada on the cardiovascular health of South Asians, the fastest-growing immigrant group that also has the best rates of death and illness related to heart disease.
Studies done mostly in the UK show South Asians have higher blood sugar levels, waist circumference and body mass index, or BMI, compared with those in the overall population.
“We already know that children who’re nine to 10 years old, they’re already at an obstacle. This drawback widens and magnifies over time in the event that they don’t engage in behaviours that reduce the danger,” said Tang, who can also be an associate professor within the division of endocrinology on the University of British Columbia.
The aim of the pilot on the 4 schools was to enhance South Asian children’s fitness early within the hope they’d adopt exercise as a lifelong habit. Bhangra lessons were offered since the dance is a component of the children’ culture and history and their parents could relate to it for a similar reasons.
“It’s fun,” Tang said. “For me, it was more about after we’re trying to have interaction families, what are the very best types of exercise we are able to use where parents are equally enthusiastic about it as the children.”
Together with free lessons, students between the ages of eight and 12 also received six instructional videos of beginner, intermediate and advanced levels of bhangra, directed and produced by top bhangra dancers in British Columbia, so kids could practise at home and involve their parents, Tang said.
Tang said the fun factor was a vital a part of the pilot because people of all ages usually tend to keep on with an activity they enjoy.
“I might like to do a study in Richmond using K-pop,” she said of the British Columbia city with a high Chinese population, which can also be at greater risk of diabetes compared with their white Canadian counterparts.
“It’s the visceral body fat that’s across the organs that’s the harmful fat. It’s not just like the Homer Simpson fat across the waist. East Asians are at greater risk than whites however the South Asians are by far at more greater risk than East Asians.”
Some families face barriers to fitness, including the associated fee of classes, she said, noting dances similar to bhangra can promote fitness in children and could possibly be part of faculty programs in various communities.
“Some parents don’t have the posh of taking two hours of their weekend to drive their kids to lessons and drive back. Whenever you take a look at neighbourhoods where the median household income is lower, those are the colleges that don’t have the funding for programs like this,” Tang said.
“There’s just a number of drawback in certain areas where kids would profit probably the most but they’ve the least resources.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 28, 2023.
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