There is a pilot program being tested at Kyrene de la Colina Elementary School that focuses on improved health and wellness by adding a twist of fun and a dash of information.
As part of the program, called Fitness for Life, four weeks of the school year are dedicated as Wellness Weeks at Colina. Each week focuses on a different aspect of staying healthy with activities in the classroom to back up that weekly theme.
The week of Nov. 15-19 had the theme of "Classroom Activity Breaks," which has the students in every classroom at the school doing aerobic exercises for 10 minutes in the morning and afternoon. The goal is to get blood flowing to the brain for improved cognitive abilities, said one Colina teacher.
"We did it during state testing and, because you have 7 and 8 year olds sitting for an hour, this gives them a chance to stand up, move around a bit, and refocus," said third-grade teacher Rose Viterbo. "I think it's a great program being able to teach that extra time about eating right and exercising."
Although Colina, along with all Kyrene elementary schools, only has physical education twice per week, Fitness for Life acts as a supplement not only to physical activity but also as guidance on making healthy food choices.
"Healthy habitats are adopted at a young age," said physical education teacher Mary Dean. "A real goal in physical education now is getting students to take responsibility for themselves. This is a fun way to go about that."
One of the key aspects of the program is the instructional DVD. There is a different video for each week that matches up with the theme. The students do things like stretch and dance and jog in place.
Colina Principal Kelvin Inouye spoke about how President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are advocating more exercise for youth in the country.
"It's so important that kids understand that beyond academics at school there are health issues to think about," Inouye said. "If they keep this up they find that it is fun, but it also is about learning and being responsible for their own self."
Fitness for Life was developed by Ahwatukee resident Dr. Chuck Corbin, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University in exercise and wellness.
"There is good evidence that if kids get activity during the day that time isn't lost, in fact it is beneficial because they are getting exercise, plus their brain's function better so they learn more," Corbin said. "This program is four weeks a year, we are going full blast."
Because it's a pilot program, there was no cost to the school. Corbin said for a school like Colina, the total cost would be between $800-$1,000.
To find out more, visit www.Fitnessforlife.org.