28 Jul 2016

Project Activate - swimming in a flume

From Our Changing World, 9:06 pm on 28 July 2016
Flume pool

Jim Cotter and the University of Otago flume pool in the School of Physical Education Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Two girls swimming

Two students swimming in the flume, with the water moving at a low speed. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Take a bunch of Pacific Island students, add a nutrition expert and a physical education researcher and you have Project Activate.

The aim of Project Activate, which ran for a week during the school holidays, is to enthuse the 12-year-olds about healthy living and about science.

Finau Taungapeau is health promotion team leader at the Pacific Trust Otago, she says Project Activate has a couple of aims.

“We want to motivate and encourage them to take up science at school, but also at the same time we’re looking at healthy living, healthy eating and being active and fit.”

Nutrition expert Rebecca Wilson says the students are at the age where they’re starting to choose subjects, and also forming habits to take through their lifetime.

"This is a good time to influence them.”

Finau says the role of the Pacific Trust Otago is to get our people to be healthy, and also to try to excel in whatever subjects they want to do.

As well as cooking workshops, a sports tournament, the students get to experience different exercise equipment at the School of Physical Education at the University of Otago.

Scientist Jim Cotter led the exercise component of the Project, which included a swimming challenge in the flume, a circulating water channel is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere.

The flume is 10 metres long and contains180 tonnes of water, which Jim says: “is a fair bit to get cranking around, essentially in a big loop".

Checking heart rate

Student checking out his heart rate after swimming in the flume - he is wearing a heart monitor that can be remotely detected by the watch on the pole. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

He says the purpose of the week is to show the students how different forms of exercise can be valuable for heart health, and are all different.

He also says it’s important for them to experience how it feels to get their heart rate working at different levels of exertion.

“If they measure their heart rate while they’re doing these different forms of exercise then, if they want to, they can have some idea as to how hard they working their heart when they’re swimming, or cycling or running.”

“We’re also doing basketball, and hopefully what they’ll find there is their heart rate can be really high and they can get a really good cardiovascular workout doing a team game, yet they’re not even thinking about it.”

He points out that swimming, along with rowing, is a sport that is very good at oxygenating the brain, as it uses arms as well as legs.

Flume tank on fast flow

The speed of water flowing through the flume tank can be made to match the fastest speed reached by a world record swimmer. Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Jim Cotter has previously been on Our Changing World talking about heat, exercise and heart health.