Radzi’s mission to get children as fit as a lion

When a lion hunts its prey, stealth is everything, says Radzi Chinyanganya.

Radzi, pictured on a visit to St Lukes School, sees the benefit of exercise
Radzi, pictured on a visit to St Lukes School, sees the benefit of exercise

“You need to move quite quickly, but you also need to be quiet,” says Radzi Chinyanganya.

“Cats walk a certain way, they move the back left leg first, then their front left leg, then the back right leg, and finally the front right leg.”

If stalking zebras is not your thing, you might prefer to move like a flamingo.

“You stand on one leg, and then move your other leg at a right angle, so your body is in a T-formation,” says the former Blue Peter presenter.

Radzi lives in Wolverhampton and went to Adams Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire, where he has kept in touch and revisited a number of times.

He is hoping his new book, called How To Move Like a Lion. will tear youngsters away from their smartphones and tablets, and get them moving like wild beasts during the lockdown.

But while numerous studies have shown that the coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated problems with childhood obesity, Radzi says the idea for the book came to him long before Covid-19 even existed.

“It’s something I’ve been working on for the last two years, obviously way before we knew anything about Covid, so the timing is just really strange in terms of kids are at home, not necessarily moving about as much as they normally would and there are a lot of distractions now, whether it be when you’re not at school, iPads or phones etc,” he says.

Radzi, who was born in Oxfordshire, moved to Wolverhampton when he was six years old, and moved house several times during his early years in the town.

“The first time I spoke to somebody in Wolverhampton, I assumed they were speaking to me in Welsh,” he jokes.

“When I was growing up I went to seven different schools, so I was used to being the new kid, but I knew by the end of break-time people would see me playing sport and they would think ‘he’s not too bad’.”

But while young Radzi loved sport, his experience of working in children’s television showed him that for many children the opposite was the case. And he decided he wanted to do something that would encourage all children to take part in physical activity.

“I thought there are two things that children really love, the one is super-heroes, and the other is animals.

“I went to a charity called the Youth Sport Trust and said I would really like to make something which isn’t competitive, and it’s really inclusive and really inspires young people, so we came up with the idea of moving like an animal.”

Radzi says he spent a considerable period of time studying how different animals moved, and how these could be used to create a programme of different exercises based on the movement patterns of more than 70 different animals.

Actually, Radzi dislikes the word ‘exercise’. “When you talk about ‘exercise’, people think it’s something that is tiring, that involves working up a sweat, but these aren’t like that,” he says.

Inspiration

“In my book, you’ve a wake-up routine, a different one from Monday to Friday. Then you’ve got seven different settling-down routines, one for each day of the week as well, to get you ready for sleep, and you’ve got lots to do in the middle.”

The book also explains which muscles you might be working for each of the routines, but Radzi stresses that this is not about toning the body or improving the way you look.

“I’m not too fussed about changing the way you look, this is all about changing the way you feel,” he says.

“When you move more, you feel better, and the chances are if you feel better you will probably do it more, and so it’s not a hit session where you are going to sweat loads, it’s nothing where you feel kind of rubbish at it – it’s something for everyone.

“Hopefully it could just be that seed of inspiration that kicks young people off, kicks you into sport or just makes them a little more active.”

Radzi, 33, says his own background as a working-class lad from Wolverhampton influenced his decision to go against the advice of his publishers, and to print the book in black-and-white to keep the cost down.

“They told me it would look better in full colour, but that it would increase the recommended cover price to £18, whereas in black and white it would be £5,” he says.

"But I wanted this to be a book that people from Wolverhampton, from Walsall, West Brom, Telford, Newport or Dudley would buy. I didn’t want it to be just a book for people in the Home Counties.”

And while Radzi’s work now takes him all over the UK – he has been holed up in Milton Keynes working on the Masters snooker championship – he is still very much a West Midlands lad, living just a short distance from the city centre of Wolverhampton.

“I think I will always want to keep a base in Wolverhampton, because it’s what I know,” he says.

“I mean, who wouldn’t want to get on the Pendolino train from London, to be greeted by the place with the Calor gas cylinders when you get home?”

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