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Schools work on kids health, challenge adults

POSTED: October 8, 2012 7:00 p.m.
Photo by Danielle Hipps/

Lewis Frasier Middle School students in Sherry Baker’s business education class exercise Sept. 27 during the JAM World Record challenge.

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Three Liberty County Schools participated in a Sept. 27 world-record attempt to get students moving, but Lewis Frasier Middle School nurse Peggy Rayman hopes to see classroom exercise become a more frequent occurrence.
LFMS, Liberty Elementary School and Taylors Creek Elementary School participated in the JAM World Record challenge, which aimed to have more than 2 million participants.
Liberty County schools added 2,311 participants when they exercised along with a 2-minute video at 10 a.m. Sept. 27.
As the school year gets underway, Rayman said she’s aiming to get teachers to offer five minutes of exercise per class period, which would equal at least 25 minutes a day.
“There is plenty of documentation out there that says this is well worth it,” Rayman said. “Most classes, most teachers are going to spend at least five minutes calming the kids down, so why not use it doing something that’s really good for them?”
To support her point, Rayman provided a 2011 HealthDay News article on a study conducted by the Georgia Prevention Institute at Georgia Health Sciences University in Augusta.
That study, which tested 171 overweight students ages 7 to 11 over a three-month span, found that students who exercised 40 minutes a day for three months saw 3.8-point increases on cognitive planning skills scores. The other group, which exercised 20 minutes each day, also saw gains to a smaller extent.  
Rayman is encouraging teachers throughout the district to integrate at least five minutes of exercise into each class period, and she provided a video from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation featuring Boston Celtics captain Paul Piece to achieve the goal.
The Paul Pierce video features six fitness routines made for tight spaces and without equipment. Teachers also are encouraged to use other resources, Rayman said.
“At first glance it doesn’t look all that rigorous, and then [LFMS Principal Jermaine] Mr. Williams got in some of the classrooms and was trying it and he said, ‘Oh yeah, I can feel that,’” Rayman said with a laugh.  
LFMS Student Wellness Council eighth-grade representative Tiana Johnson said she likes that the school is incorporating programs aimed at children because many conversations about obesity are focused on adults.
“I like it because, you know, you sit in the classroom all day, and you have to listen to your teacher teach,” Johnson said. “So to get up and exercise, especially when you may not have gym or you may not be able to go outside at home, it’s really refreshing and I actually feel better and I feel more loose like I got all my giggles out and all the energy out that’s building up from sitting down.”
In Sherry Baker’s business education class, eighth-graders lined the room’s perimeter for exercises like jogging in place, raising the roof and mimicking a sport. As they finished with cool-down stretches, some students said they were tired and asked for water.
Last year, Baker’s students did the exercise once a day; currently, they’re doing it once a week, but she said she is trying to increase the amount.
“They’re normally antsy, and they’re chatty, so during the video, they have time to talk and get their energy out, so when they sit back down,” she said with a wink as she motioned to quiet students who were on task.
“If you’ve got a rambunctious group, it’s great; it’s a great class management tool,” Baker added.  
Baker added that she noticed positive results in her own body but also among students, especially one who gained some stability during the course
of the exercise program.
Liberty County School System educators also are practicing what they preach.
The district also recently launched a 50-day employee challenge, which features nutrition tracking through www.choosemyplate.gov, weekly weigh-ins and exercise incentives.
Teachers can earn points for staying within their calorie guidelines, reaching exercise goals and body-mass index improvement.
When the challenge ends Nov. 15, the schools in each category with the most points will win a free lunch and prizes donated by local businesses, according to a challenge document.
Rayman hopes the staff initiative will create role models for student behavior — and as the challenge heats up, representatives at each school are tracking just how much classroom exercise students and teachers alike are performing.

 

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