Danny Jones: Exercise is so important for children – it helped me cope with school bullying

The Voice Kids coach opens up about how exercise helped when he was a child, and how he’s helping school kids get active now.

McFly frontman Danny Jones loves being part of a team.

Whether that’s on TV, with the group of talented children he’s built as a coach on The Voice Kids, playing football for team England in last month’s Soccer Aid, or parenting, with his wife and young son, teamwork is an important part of the musician’s busy life.

And he admits being in a team is what helped him through one of his earliest challenges, when he was bullied as a child.  He says: “I was football mad when I was younger, but what I loved most about playing football as a kid was how much it made me feel part of a team. Being active also helped me get through the tough times at school – when I was bullied, being part of a team really helped with my confidence and self-esteem.”

Being physically active has always been an important part of Jones’ life too, and he’s keen to make sure his 18-month-old son Cooper, and children throughout the UK, get plenty of exercise too. So he’s teamed up with the public health campaign Change4Life and Disney UK to encourage kids to get active for 60 minutes a day through ’10 Minute Shake Up’ (10MSU) games inspired by their favourite Disney characters.

Here Jones, 33, talks about his own love of physical activity, and how he hopes to help get more of the nation’s kids moving.

Were you active as a child?

“When I was a kid, I loved being outside and being active, whether it was playing football or going on bike rides with my family. I didn’t realise at the time but being active was really important for more than just my physical health – it helped me to make friends and feel part of a group.

“I also really enjoyed boxing and was a fast runner – I tried anything really! I’d encourage children to try different things and keep going even if you’re not the best at it . Enjoying yourself is the most important thing.

“As I got older, I began to realise that it also helped me to cope with anxiety and now it’s a huge part of my routine.”

Will you make sure your son’s active when he’s old enough?

“Definitely, although I don’t think he needs any help getting active – I feel like I’m always running after him! His new favourite activity is scooting, so we try to scoot down to the park most days and play a bit of football. It’s really important to keep kids active as it helps with self-confidence, self-esteem and to build skills to help deal with life’s challenges.”

What exercise do you do now?

“I’ve always loved being active and it’s about trying different things and finding what you enjoy. I go to the gym a lot these days, but I still love kicking about a football and boxing from time to time. Finding activities you love makes it easier to continue being active.

“As I’ve got older, I’ve started to realise just how important being active is. For myself, I know that if I’m feeling down or anxious, doing a workout or going for a run around the park will make me feel so much better.

“I’m also conscious that I want to be a good role model for my son, so he sees all the benefits of being active. Although, don’t get me wrong, I do also love relaxing and watching a film with the family. It’s all about balance and I think this new Change4Life and Disney campaign is a great way to encourage families to spend quality time together in a variety of ways.”

You’ve just taken part in a primary school PE lesson as part of the 10MSU campaign. Was it fun?

Danny Jones & pupils from Rosendale Primary School roar like Simba the lion (Jeff Moore/PA)
Danny Jones and pupils roar like Simba from The Lion King (Jeff Moore/PA)

“I visited a primary school to find out how being active helps school children feel more confident, less stressed and boosts their social skills – attributes that can help them deal with the challenges and knocks they face in daily life. It was great to talk to the kids about the kinds of activity they enjoy and how it makes them feel.

“I joined the children in one of their PE lessons to help them learn some new 10 Minute Shake Up games, and it was so much fun! It’s amazing to see how adding some of the kids’ favourite Disney characters to games and activities gets them so excited to get active. My personal favourite was Simba’s Mighty Roar Jumps – jumping up and down and roaring as loud as you can definitely gets the heart rate going!”

Why do you think being active is so important for children?

“I’m really surprised that physical activity levels among children are so low these days and I hate to think some children aren’t benefiting from the life skills that being active helps you develop.

“Being a first-time dad, I feel really passionate about making sure children are getting outside and enjoying being active. I’ve experienced first hand how being more active can help you deal with the challenges in everyday life, so I want to encourage families this summer to get active using the 10 Minute Shake Up games.”

Finally, are you enjoying being a coach on The Voice Kids?

“I love being on The Voice Kids, I’m always blown away with how talented kids are and keep thinking how most of them are way better than I was at that age!”