Promoting fitness to children… Westside Elementary holds ribbon cutting on Project Fit America outdoor Fit Pit

Published 1:03 am Friday, September 27, 2019

According to studies, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions tripling in the United States since 1980 leading to health problems for today’s children including a larger occurrence of type-2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and gallbladder problems.
For that reason, Westside Elementary in Elizabethton has diligently been chasing down an opportunity to bring a Project Fit America Fit Pit to the school and thanks to a grant from Ballad Health Foundation and Niswonger Children’s Hospital that dream is now a reality as a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the school on Thursday morning to open the Fit Pit.
Westside was just one of two schools to receive the grant this year.

“Niswonger Children’s Hospital and Ballad Health Foundation are committed to helping the children of the Appalachian Highlands become healthy adults,” said Jack Simpson, president of the Ballad Health Foundation in a press release from the Elizabethton School system. 

“We are pleased, through our affiliation with Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, to be able to fund Project Fit America Programs in two schools this year – one in Elizabethton and one in Abingdon, Virginia.

 “As Ballad Health becomes an exemplar on how to improve population health, it’s our children who are learning how to enjoy an active lifestyle on these playgrounds who will help us lead the way.”

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The press release also shared the idea behind the Project Fit America program.

The goal of Project Fit is for students to take personal responsibility for their health, which improves their physical well-being as well as academic performance.

Project Fit enhances children’s physical education, going beyond traditional fitness programs and gym classes with fun and intense activities that help students build social skills, character, and sportsmanship.

 The program features state-of-the-art indoor and outdoor fitness equipment specifically designed to address the deficit areas where children fail fitness tests and a dynamic curriculum with games, activities, and challenges.

The academic curriculum also creates “physically educated” children and empowers them to take personal responsibility for their health with enthusiasm. It also provides support to the schools for two years, along with on-site training for each physical education teacher.

“As you use this equipment, I am sure Mrs. (Crystal) VanHuss will be making sure that this to put to good use,” said Director of Schools Dr. Corey Gardenhour in his remarks. “Just remember that this community of Elizabethton loves you. 

“Everyone working up here has had a part in making today possible including Mr. Wright and the parents who have worked so hard alongside our teachers to make today possible. I want to say thank you to all of you.”

School principal John Wright has always been a big advocate of fitness for his students and has incorporated the morning mile where students and teachers walk a mile before class starts just to get their blood pumping and off to a good start to the day.

“We are focused on helping our students live up to their potential in all areas of life,” Wright stated in the press release. “If they are healthy, they will perform better in whatever they attempt.

“The Project Fit America grant fits perfectly with the health initiatives we have already started here at West Side to help lead our students to healthier lifestyles.”

A special guest was on hand for the ribbon-cutting as well as the Ginga Ninja, Chris Boehm of American Ninja Warrior fame, gave a cool demonstration to the kids of some of the things that he is able to do on the equipment and spoke of the importance of being fit and healthy. Boehm made it to the championship round of American Ninja Warrior in Las Vegas in his second season on the show.

The highlights of the morning for the children were Boehm and Wright racing to the top of the climbing poles which are part of the newly installed equipment and a weighted hula-hoop challenge.

One thing that was made clear also was that the public is welcome to take advantage of the equipment during after school hours as fitness needs to start from the young to the old.

Some facts of the importance of having physically fit children were listed in the press release and can be found below.

Fast Facts on the benefits of physically active children

-Source: American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness

  • Better thinking skills. Studies show people who exercise more are sharper mentally. The effects can be almost immediate. One study found kids scored higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.
  • More confidence. Studies have found kids who are physically active are more confident. In turn, that confidence might improve their academic performance, too. Active kids tend to get better grades. Though there could be a lot of reasons for that, including brain benefits, part of it may be better self-confidence. 
  • Better moods. Many studies have found kids who exercise feel happier. Physical activity releases brain chemicals that are natural stress fighters. Just about any physical activity seems to help. Physically active kids are better at managing their moods and have fewer mood swings, too.
  • Sounder sleep. Kids who exercise regularly fall asleep faster than other kids. They also stay asleep longer. The more vigorous the activity, the bigger the sleep benefit. Getting enough sleep lifts moods, improves judgment, and boosts memory.