A West Virginia University College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences program that aims to increase exercise for students in McDowell County has received a grant to help students receive the nationally recommended 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
With the funding of a one-year grant from the Highmark Foundation, every K-12 student in the county has greater access to a wide range of physical activity programs through the McDowell CHOICES (Coordinated Health Opportunities involving Communities, Environments, and Schools) project.
Archery, Zumba, karate, dance, gymnastics and active gaming are just a few different physical activity programs either already underway or scheduled to begin soon in schools across the county.
Presently, with the guidance of McDowell County Schools Superintendent Nelson Spencer and the 11 school principals, funds support equipment purchases for each of the schools to enhance their physical activity opportunities, including quality physical education as well as before and after school programs, and other physical activity offerings during the school day (i.e. recess, classroom movement).
“One of the things that makes McDowell CHOICES unique is we are able to let most of the decision-making happen at the local schools,” explained Nathan Acosta, McDowell CHOICES project director.
“Physical education teachers, who are a first line of defense in the fight against childhood obesity, as well as principals, other school administrators and even parents, through participating in their school’s wellness committees, have all made a direct influence on the types of equipment we provide as well as the after school programs. We also conducted a survey of the students to identify the physical activities in which they are most interested,” added Acosta.
Project team members are working with each of the school leaders to hire instructors for three new physically active after-school programs in each school, one focusing on family involvement. Additionally, to increase sustainability, the group is creating training for local McDowell County residents to provide certification to lead various physical activity programs in the schools and communities.
With equipment upgrades installed and after school programming already underway, McDowell CHOICES is emphasizing the critical need for each child to be physically active for 60 minutes per day. McDowell County schools are also becoming a leader in the state for physical activity promotion by having full participation in Let’s Move! Active Schools, a national initiative and part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative.
“We know these children are at risk for a whole host of problems related to a lack of physical activity. Healthy children become healthier adults, and therefore, healthy employees and vibrant, productive members of their communities,” said Dr. Eloise Elliott, Ware Distinguished Professor, WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences, and lead on the McDowell CHOICES Team project.
“We believe that McDowell CHOICES is currently making a positive impact on physical activity participation in the schools, and we hope that these efforts will be sustained to positively impact McDowell County’s future,” Elliott added.
The project continues through October 2014, and will focus on positive outcomes related to healthy lifestyles through improved physical activity opportunities for McDowell County youth.
CONTACT: Kimberly Cameon, College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences
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