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Challenging Kids to Get Fit and Have Fun

Last week, Happy Hollow Elementary School held a fitness challenge to encourage kids to keep moving. Will the lessons they learned last beyond the week?

Study after study shows the importance of keeping kids active. It’s critical for brain development, physical growth and emotional well-being. There are formal programs to get kids moving like the NFL’s Play 60, the First Lady’s Let’s Move campaign, and the BOKS program, which a Natick mom started as FitKidz and has now gone national.

Last week, the Happy Hollow PTO jumped into the kids fitness arena, holding a fitness challenge to encourage students at to stay active and track their activity. As an incentive, each participating student will be eligible to win one of number of fitness-related prizes, such as gift cards, sessions for lessons and instruction, and passes for free admission from local vendors and sponsors.

While the prizes are the incentive get kids started, I hope the kids learn how good it feels to be active and they keep moving.

From my perspective as a personal trainer and a mom, there are two things in particular that I like about the fitness challenge. First, the challenge makes it easy for kids to think about whether they move their bodies enough each day. The tracking form breaks “activity” down into 10 minute blocks and kids simply shade in the amount of time they were active. There’s no required activity, no right or wrong types of exercise, but what the form does is put fitness at the top of kids’ minds.

I often tell my clients, “What gets measured, improves.” When you track your food intake, you’re more mindful of what you’re eating. When you track your activity, you’re more aware of how much you’re moving. You have to build this awareness before it can become a habit that you don’t need to think about. And that’s the ultimate goal of the fitness challenge — to create healthy fitness habits that kids can carry with them into adulthood.

The second thing I like about the challenge is that it offers a variety of activities that count as fitness, which is great for the kid who’s not really into team sports or formal, structured activities. Some of the bonus options include:

  • Walking, biking or gliding to school.
  • Having a dance party.                        
  • Counting your steps with a pedometer.            
  • Playing outside.                 
  • Getting a parent/family member to exercise with you.                  
  • Jumping rope while waiting at the bus stop.   
  • Making up a new game or sport.

The point of the list is to show kids that they’re not destined to sit on the sidelines if they don’t like soccer. They just need to try different activities and keep moving — there’s no wrong path to fitness! 

This week we were lucky to have partners that made it easier for kids to be active in different ways. opened two of their youth classes to Happy Hollow’s students — a yoga class and a trifecta class, which is a mash-up of basketball, floor hockey and soccer. Happy Hollow physical education teacher John Berry and the BASE staff organized a , which offered hula hoops, jump ropes, basketball, a ropes course and other activities. This was a big hit — when I was there, I heard many kids ask when it was happening again. (Wayland Patch

As one of the main organizers of this event, I was overwhelmed by the support of the Happy Hollow and the BASE staffs as well as the contributions from the community. Local vendors who donated prizes to the challenge include the Boston Harbor Island Alliance, Charles River Canoe & Paddle, Frozen Ropes, Metrowest YMCA, Roots & Wings Yoga, SkyZone Indoor Tramopline Park, Wayland Community Pool, Whole Foods and Your Element Yoga.

I’m looking forward to collecting the activity tracking forms later this week to see how many kids participated in the challenge. But I’m even more excited at the prospect of these kids continuing to be fit and active well beyond the week of the fitness challenge. 

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