Before the Healthiest State Initiative began, Iowa was ranked the 16th healthiest state in the nation. In 2012, we’d risen to ninth. The goal of the Initiative is to make Iowa the healthiest state in the nation by 2016.
Karin Jones, elementary physical education teacher, outlined the many ways Wayne schools are working together to help reach that goal.
On Oct. 9, our schools will participate in the Healthiest State Walk, a one-kilometer walk that encourages students to get outside and move. Due to varying schedules, each grade will have the flexibility to choose when to complete their walk, rather than setting a time for school-wide participation. This is a way for students, teachers and staff to work a little extra movement during the day.
“It’s something fun that everyone can do, regardless of ability or disability. Everyone can get outside and enjoy the outdoors,” said Jones. “We hope the kids will go home and encourage their families to get out, and get everyone involved.”
The walk isn’t the only way the Initiative has affected Wayne’s PE program. Jones explained how they’ve revamped the K-12 physical education department, working with the high school to continue the changes throughout the district.
“We received a grant through the Wayne Community Foundation to buy equipment two years ago that really sparked our program. This year we are focusing on technological concepts and devices in the gym to incorporate the fast evolving world of technology,” said Jones.
“One school I visited used heart monitors as a form of accountability and fitness indicators. They actually found a child with a heart defect and were able to seek medical treatment.”
Jones also aims to expose students to the many different fitness options available to them in our community, by taking them to the Prairie Trails Wellness Center and familiarizing them with the walking trails, fishing, biking and many other activities.
“We work on fitness, life skills, and we’ve moved our focus away from team sports and games. Now we teach things anyone can use in their daily life. Jumping rope, walking, agility ladders using masking tape. Simple things like that.”
In fact, Wayne schools encourage the community to use their facilities, as residents can walk the halls in the winter and the gyms are open on Sundays.
The school encourages fitness as a part of daily life for students. Each year, second through sixth grades participate in Jump Rope for Heart, an event sponsored by the American Heart Association. At year’s end, fifth and sixth grades participate in track and field day, where local schools are invited to compete with Wayne.
“This gives kids a fun day to try different activities. It exposes them to various track and field events,” said Jones.
“There are also different sports available to kids in the community. Soccer, basketball, baseball, softball, and t-ball. And while parents might find them time-consuming, they keep kids active.”
Jones recommends setting limits for time spent on-line and watching television, and going outside at least during commercial breaks.
As part of the Initiative, the Focus Five highlights five priority areas most likely to improve the state’s ranking. These include: decreasing the number of smokers, increasing fruit and veggie consumption to five or more daily servings, increasing Iowan’s learning and mental stimulation, increasing dentist visits, and increasing number of working Iowans who feel their boss treats them like a partner at work.
Here are some other tips from the Initiative:
• When you’re thirsty, reach for water or milk instead of soda. Soda should not be an everyday drink.
• Have fun with your food by helping your family make healthy meals in the kitchen.
• Learn something new every day. Your brain needs just as much exercise as your body.
• Go on walks or bike rides with your family and friends. If you have pets, bring them along too.
• Eat more fruits and veggies, and even try new foods so you can expand your appetite.
• Try some sports. There’s so many to choose from that there is sure to be one that fits your style.
For more information and ideas on how you can help reach the goal of making Iowa the healthiest state in the nation, visit www.IowaHealthiestState.com.
“You don’t have to wait until October 9 to walk, though. One kilometer is about 12 minutes of walking. Anybody can do that,” said Jones, who hopes that fitness will become a daily part of her students’ lives.
A kilometer is about 1,250 steps, or 0.62 miles. Twelve minutes a day is a small price to pay to start on the path to a healthy lifestyle, especially for children. If parents, caregivers and teachers can get kids playing out in the fresh air now, while they’re young, they’re more likely to make time for fitness as adults, which will help the state not just reach the goal of being healthiest in the nation, but keep that position for years to come.