Month: March 2011

Students have a ball with new fitness programs

Fitness balls instead of chairs, time in the garden and not just the classroom, and lessons that incorporate nutrition are all part of a collaborative effort at Wilson Elementary School focused on helping students make healthy choices.

Several area groups – Baptist Health, the Alabama chapter of the Institute for America’s Health and Bonnie Plant Farms – have programs in place at the school for the first time this year to help students stay active during the day and learn about exercise and healthy eating.

Officials held a news conference at the school Thursday to showcase the programs and explain how healthier students will make for a healthier community.

“I think it’s important to have it incorporated throughout the school day,” said Natalie Steed, Institute for America’s Health Alabama statewide coordinator, said it’s important to have health and fitness lessons incorporated throughout the day.  “They learn better, they perform better and they feel better.”

Steed’s organization provides Wilson, and Crump Elementary School, with the WAY to a Healthier Alabama program.  WAY, which stands for Wellness, Academics and You, is a set of classroom resources aligned with core subjects that provide “health and wellness messages.”  The free program is paid for with contributions from the state education department and others.

For example, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers educate students about nutrition labels during math lessons on percentages, which are part of the math curriculum.

She said students learn math and nutrition information, seeing firsthand how things they learn in school are applicable to real life.

Steed and other officials hope that students will learn to make good choices about food and exercise and take that knowledge home with them.

Officials said that with Alabama’s obesity rate among the highest in the nation it’s never been more critical to spread information about living healthy.

Wilson Principal Janine Brouillette said it’s important to give students healthy choices and that’s just what the programs at her school do.

“Students now instead of getting outside and excercising they are glued to games,” she said.  “It’s important to teach (healthy choices) because they are really not used to it.”

For example, the school’s newly created outdoor classroom includes beds to plant vegetables and herbs, which students later will eat at school or take home.  Bonnie Plant Farms is helping with some of the materials, and officers from Maxwell Air Force Base’s Gunter Annex recently helped build the beds.

“If they are actually involved in growing the food they are likely to eat it,” she said.

In addition to the healthful outdoor classroom and daily wellness lessons at Wilson, the school also is utilizing WittFitt exercise balls.

Inside a computer lab at Wilson, a group of students stared intently at their computer screens Thursday, but instead of sitting in front of the screen on a chair, students sat on an exercise ball, some gently bobbing up and down.

Baptist Health purchased and donated about 40 balls to the school at $40 a piece in January.  Robin Barca, Baptist Health chief operating officer, said the balls are made specifically for students to use in class and even have little feet on the bottom to prevent students from toppling over.

Barca said the balls not only give students constant exercise that will tone their core, but they’ve also been proven to help students concentrate.

“I think all of us are concerned about the growing trend of kids becoming sedentary,” she said.  “We have to think of innovative ways to be active.”


Article written by Annie McCallum of The Montgomery Advertiser.

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Rain-drenched athletes compete in duathlon

More than 80 dedicated athletes of all ages wouldn’t let a continuous downpour slow them down Saturday morning as they splashed through puddles and cycled their way around an east Montgomery course.

The New Park Family Duathlon was held under monsoon-like conditions at the James W. Wilson, Jr. YMCA, but directors said the only thing to stop it would be lightning.  That didn’t happen and every body crossed the finish line in soggy fashion.

Event coordinator Greg Miles alluded to a familiar phrase usually reserved for mail carriers when he said “neither rain, nor wind, nor cold” could keep the participants from completing the course.

Add those factors together, he said “and you have an almost insurmountable hurdle, but all perservered and finished the race.”

“Endurance events are difficult to begin with, but when you have the conditions we have here this morning, they only add to the challenges,” said Miles, who kept tabs on the runners in a cart and made sure everybody was OK.

Because of the downpour that began before the start of the race and did not let up, Miles said some runners took off their sneakers because they had been soaked and only added unwanted weight.

He said the races are charity events to help KidOne and the YMCA Partner with Youth Campaign.

“The events are for both adults and children and are focused on fun as much as fitness,” he said, adding that one reason for the races is to fight obesity.

In addition to the runs that kicked-off and finished the event, a bicycle race was sandwiched in between the two.

Andy McElvaine finished as the overall winner in the male division, while Mary Robins dominated the women’s division.  Each received $200 gift certificates from Montgomery Multisport.

Most of the runners waited under a tent until it was time to walk to the starting line, but got wet anyway when part of it collapsed because of the heavy puddle on top.

Miles, who cheered his two daughters – Presley and Sailor – as they completed the course, said it was the first in a series of four endurance events that Montgomery Multisport is putting on for the 2011 season.

In the youngest division, Nick Dudle took first place in the male-under-6 division followed by Norris Pemberton and Eli Negro.

In the female division, Presley Miles was first, followed by Keagan Wendling and Sarah Johnson.

Written by Alvin Benn of The Montgomery Advertiser

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