Life

Jade Jones: I trained like a Jedi to win olympic golds and kids should try it too

Taekwondo star Jade Jones is encouraging children to get active with Jedi-inspired moves. Lisa Salmon finds out more

Jade Jones on set filming for the new Change4Life Train Like A Jedi programme

TAEKWONDO champion Jade Jones used the mindset of a Jedi Knight to help her win two Olympic gold medals.

And now the talented fighter is enlisting the help of the powerful Jedi from the Star Wars movies again, in a bid to get children more physically active.

The taekwondo champion, who won gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, is the ambassador for the new Change4Life Train Like A Jedi programme, to inspire children to get active through learning Jedi-inspired moves performed by Jones.

"I believe the Jedi characteristics are the same as the ones I used for the Olympics – I really can relate to them," says Jones. "Luke Skywalker and Rey have persistence, determination and the grit to achieve what they want to achieve and not give up, even when it gets hard.

"You keep going, you keep pushing, and use all the skills you have."

As part of the initiative Jones (25) is starring in a Train Like a Jedi video, where she demonstrates moves designed to promote six key skills – technique, strength, stamina, speed, agility and mastery – and to increase children's heart rates and benefit their health.

"It was great fun to create the Jedi-inspired moves, which can be done any time and anywhere," she says. "They're not actually taekwondo moves, but there are a lot of kicks in it, and they're strong, martial arts kind of moves that I can relate a lot to.

"Throughout the Star Wars films, the Jedi are constantly active and doing the moves. They just don't stop, and that's really good for kids to see. Even when you get a knock back, you keep moving forward, grit down and don't give up. It's about persistence.

"That's why I'm so passionate about keeping kids active and healthy. Being an Olympian myself, I know how important it is."

Just 23 per cent of boys and 20 per cent of girls aged five to 15 currently meet recommended exercise levels of at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day, but a new Public Health England (PHE) and Disney survey found 82 per cent of children would be inspired to move more if they saw their favourite characters being active, and 59 per cent would be more active if exercise felt fun.

"A lot of parents don't realise that many kids aren't actually reaching the recommended activity levels," says Jones. "Back in the day, kids were constantly active, but there are a lot of reasons they're not now. It's about educating them and trying to find exciting, different ways for them to get active."

While 58 per cent of children and 55 per cent of parents say friends are the most influential in encouraging children to be more physically active, nearly all children (99 per cent) say they enjoy doing physical activity or sports with their parents.

Jones's parents were extremely encouraging about fitness, and she says: "I've always been very active – my parents were really good at making sure I was active, and also I found taekwondo, which was something I loved.

"You've got to find something kids enjoy and that keeps them active in a fun way – they're not going to want to be put through their paces just to keep fit, it's got to be exciting too.

"After seeing the Star Wars films, they'll want to become a Jedi and they can learn the skills this way – I would've loved that when I was growing up."

The Train Like a Jedi video is designed for children to play along, either with friends or family, or by themselves – and can be done in 10-minute bursts throughout the day.

Jones's final say on the matter is, naturally: "May the Force be with you."

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