Benefits of exercise
Everyone can benefit from regular exercise. Kids who are active will:
• have stronger muscles and bones
• have a leaner body because exercise helps control body fat
• be less likely to become overweight
• decrease the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes
• possibly lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels
• have a better outlook on life
With shrinking education budgets, it often can be difficult to get the latest technological gadgets and equipment into the classroom. This especially is true when that technology is not widely used in schools and doesn’t really conform to the traditional classroom environment, in which students most often are seated at desks for the day.
However, one school nurse at Lewis Frasier Middle School is working to change that method of thinking and bring more movement into the classroom.
“Sitting at desks all day is killing us,” Peggy Rayman said.
The school’s wellness program is taking a multifaceted approach to fighting childhood obesity and overall health by focusing on diet and exercise, said Rayman, who pointed out that Lewis Frasier already has removed all sugary drinks from the building and has met the new federal Alliance for a Healthier Generation nutritional guidelines. Students also are participating in daily exercise programs in morning and afternoon homeroom and challenging other area schools to healthy-habits competitions. But Rayman said that’s still not enough.
Even children and adults who are active and exercise regularly are at an increased risk for heart attack, stroke and Type 2 diabetes if they sit at a desk in school or at work for six to eight hours a day, she said.
“Students only get one quarter of physical education a school year, and that’s if they do not take chorus or band. That’s just not enough,” Rayman said. “With our nation’s rising obesity crisis and our youth living more sedentary lifestyles, remaining seated during school hours is only compounding the problem. Teachers and administrative staff also face the same plight.”
That’s why Rayman is working to bring a new forward thinking idea — treadmill desks — into the classroom at Lewis Frasier.
“It’s hard to change the school day to make more time for psychical education without making major changes to the schedule and hiring more staff. Teachers do not get enough instructional time as it is,” she said. The desks would allow for movement and exercise in the classroom while instruction is occurring.
The desks look much like a traditional treadmill except with a full-size desk area attached to the front that allows students to work as they would at a traditional desk, but while walking at a slow, steady pace.
This movement is enough to increase heart rate and blood flow throughout the body, which increases focus. Rayman said studies show that using the desks also would help children academically, helping them to better grasp educational concepts.
Rayman first saw the treadmill desks successfully used at a school in Atlanta, and she set out to do her own research on the subject and attempt to secure grants to get the desks in every school in Liberty County. However, since the desks are only made by a few manufacturers and they can run about $690 and up per desk, the road to obtaining enough desks for the entire school may be long.
Rayman previously had attempted writing a few grants for the desks, but they did not produce results. However, last year, she was able to tap into the governor’s SHAPE grant, a one-time award of $5,000. After some initial problems with working out how the project would be funded, five of the desks were approved for purchase and are on order for the school. Although there is no anticipated delivery date for the desks, Rayman already has a plan in place for the implementation of the desks. Three desks will be placed in science classrooms for sixth, seventh, and eighth grades as well as one desk in the teacher’s lounge and another in an administrative area.
A select group of students and staff will rotate using them throughout the school day as part of a trial program that will be held in cooperation with the school’s science department.
Participants’ body-mass index will be recorded, and they will wear pedometers to track the number of steps they take per day. They will track data for three groups: those who are not using the treadmill and are not doing any exercise, those who are not using the treadmill but exercise outside of the classroom, and those who are using the treadmill and exercise outside of class.
All data collected and the overall results then will be used to write better grant applications, especially those where trial data is a prerequisite. Rayman said she hopes that successful results will lead to more grants, which will bring more desks to the school. She’d like to make it so that all students have a turn on one during the day.