'Commit to be Fit' program provides exercise opportunities to middle school students
February 11, 2015
The UW-River Falls health and human performance department has teamed up with Meyer Middle School of River Falls to provide students with physical activity every day before school starts.
Health and human performance Professor Faye Perkins came up with the idea along with retired physician James Biex. They wanted to increase opportunities for students to participate in physical activity in alternative ways.
“They (Meyer Middle School) have athletics, but they’re a lot of kids that are not involved in athletics and there is intramurals, but there are some kids that don’t like intramurals,” Perkins said.
The program is called "Commit to be Fit," and it provides students with an opportunity to stay active in a non-competitive situation; the first session was Monday, Feb. 1. At the first session there were only five students who showed up, but after some advertisement, participation skyrocketed with 60 students on Tuesday, Feb. 2; 35 on Wednesday, Feb. 3; and 40 on Thursday, Feb. 4.
Perkins is expecting the attendance to stay up throughout the 13-week program that will end on May 8, and is hoping that the program will continue in the years to come.
“If we could get 30, 40, 50 kids consistently, that would be great,” Perkins said. “It is going to be interesting to see what happens with this program in the long term.”
Commit to be Fit has different activities that include everything from circuit training to yoga. Perkins is looking into an incentive program to keep up attendance. She said that they would like to give a student a ticket for every time they show up and at the end of the week they would have a drawing for a prize.
The Commit to be Fit program has been in the works for a long time. Perkins is a part of the River Falls school district planning committee, and the idea for the program came five years ago. Once it was reviewed, and went through all of the necessary channels, it was a year later. Then three years ago, Perkins, along with Biex, ask for a grant from the Wisconsin Medical Foundation and they were declined. After a year or so, they asked again and the grant was approved.
The Commit to be Fit program runs everyday during the school week. Students get into the school at 7:15 a.m. and the program starts at 7:20 a.m. The program goes for 20 minutes until 7:40 a.m., and students are in their classrooms five minutes later.
20 minutes of physical activity may not seem like much, but Perkins said that it's all kids need to get their minds working.
“There is a lot of research out there now that talks about how physical activity helps kids focus more in school,” Perkins said. “They’re less fidgety. It’s kind of just burning off some of that energy, and kids actual do better in their classes.”
Perkins plans to keep in contact with teachers to see how well the students who participate in the program are doing in school.
UWRF undergraduate students play a big role in the program. Health and human performance students run the activities with the kids at the school every morning. Perkins said that it provides them with a great experience that will fit in nicely with their resume.