Second-graders get Fit for Motion, learn about healthy choices
By Kathy Chaffin
Mackenzie Sprinkle said she and her fellow second-graders at Shive Elementary School learned what it takes to be healthy through the Fit for Motion youth leadership development program.
“For starters, we learned about exercise,” Mackenzie said at Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, reading from a paper she had written about the program. “Why should we exercise and how much is enough?”
In addition to helping develop strong bones and muscles, she said exercising “also makes you feel good inside so you can sleep better and concentrate more in your class. … We learned that each of us needs at least one hour or more of exercise daily.”
As part of the Fit for Motion program, the second graders participated in exercises such as stretching, Zumba dancing, swimming, jump rope, obstacle courses and more. The program also focused on healthy eating habits.
“The second graders learned that by eating lots of fruits and vegetables, we reduce our chances of developing diseases like heart problems and diabetes,” Mackenzie said. “We also learned that our body needs the proper foods to provide fuel for our body.
“This keeps us from getting tired and sleepy, and most of all, grumpy.”
Mackenzie said Shive Elementary’s cafeteria had changed its menu to offer whole-wheat pasta and rolls, no salt with the food and low-fat milk.
“We all need to be active instead of sitting in front of the TV or video games in the afternoons when we get home from school,” she read from her conclusion. “We need to eat more fruits and vegetables instead of chips and ice cream.
“We need to drink lots of water and milk instead of soft drinks and iced tea.”
Callie Herring, Krysti Poston and Vallie Vasquez also read their papers on the Fit for Motion program.
Callie said she had learned that there are more than 100 germs on each hand. “So when you wash your hands,” she read, “make sure you say the alphabet.”
Krysti said she had learned about the food pyramid in the Fit for Motion program. “You shouldn’t eat fats like chocolate and candy because it will give you a stomachache,” she read from her paper.
Vallie said a leader has to stay healthy by eating foods such as fruits, vegetables, grains and drinking milk; avoiding fats; exercising; and wearing sunscreen. “I am very healthy,” she read, “and I want you to be.”
As part of the graduation attended by parents and grandparents, second-graders received a certificate, a Fit for Motion water bottle, satchel and T-shirt. The final part of the ceremony consisted of a fun exercise dance session led by Sarah Zander, family services director for the YMCA of Rowan County.
The YMCA joined with Rowan Regional Medical Center and Food Lion in teaming up with the Rowan-Salisbury School System to offer the Fit for Motion program to second-graders at Shive, Millbridge and Overton. Overton’s participants graduated last Thursday and the Millbridge participants on Friday.
Faith Fisher, a second-grader at Millbridge, said she enjoyed the games they played as part of the exercise portion of the program. She said she also learned “that you can’t eat a lot of junk food in one day.”
Faith said she learned to cut down on the amount of chocolate she eats.
Her mother, Martha, said she learned more about nutrition during the three Family Nights offered at the local YMCAs as part of the program. Though she hasn’t convinced her husband, Terry, to join them, Martha said she and Faith and her three older sisters have started eating whole-grain bread and spaghetti.
Martha said she didn’t tell her daughters ahead of time that it was whole grain, and “they couldn’t tell the difference.”
What she liked most about the program was the fact that students were encouraged to exercise more than 30 minutes a day. “I have a PE (physical education) background,” Martha said, “and I’ve always thought that we needed more activities involving the schools.”
The Fit for Motion program is based on an initiative developed by the Presbyterian Preventive Cardiology and Hemby Children’s Hospital of Charlotte. Since starting in April 2007, it has helped dozens of children and teens achieve their weight goals.
Nicole Martin, community support manager for Novant Health, which includes Rowan Regional, helped develop the program. Novant sponsored the program in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in collaboration with the Charlotte Bobcats to help combat childhood obesity and cultivate leadership skills in children.
They offered the program to fourth-graders in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, she said, but chose to offer it to second-graders in Rowan. “We thought that was the youngest we could get where they would actually understand and process the information,” she said. “It’s been very, very successful.”
As part of the program, Martin said BMI (body mass index) measurements were taken of all participants. “It will be nice to follow these second-graders throughout the years and see how their BMIs differ from other students who didn’t go through the Fit for Motion program,” she said.
Martin said it was great to see the sponsors work together to create a healthier community. “I think it sends a great message that we can work together to create a healthier community,” she said, “which is Novant’s mission.”
About 300 second-graders participated in the program in its first year in Rowan.
Amanda Hesse, chief operating officer for the YMCA of Rowan County, said about 50 families attended the first two Fit for Motion Family Nights at which Rowan-Salisbury School System and Rowan Regional dietary staff spoke to parents about nutrition while their children participated in a physical fitness activity.
As part of each Family Night, she said, children and parents participated in a joint activity such as an exercise dance session similar to the one at the graduation ceremonies.
Hesse said Fit for motion is a great program. “We were able to go into three pilot schools and touch every student that was in second grade,” she said, “whereas if we had done it after school hours, we would not have had the same impact.”
One of the most rewarding parts of the program, Hesse said, was “hearing the teachers and principals talk about students going through the lunch line and asking specific questions about the nutrition of the food that they were getting ready to eat.”
Next year’s Fit for Motion program will be expanded to include second graders at Granite Quarry, Isenberg and Landis elementary schools. Hesse said Catawba College is coming on board to help with the program.
Fit for Motion includes three eight-week courses featuring weekly 30-minute sessions aimed at motivating children to live healthy lifestyles through fun, interactive presentations and activities.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-7683.