PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Lousy weather didn’t keep about 1,000 Cherokee, Crawford, Bourbon, Labette, Linn and Neosho county third-graders from getting nearly two hours of physical activity Friday morning.
They jumped, ran, scrambled under and around giant parachutes, tried some martial arts kicks, and danced the Cupid Shuffle — all inside Weede Gymnasium at Pittsburg State University in observance of the annual statewide Kansas Kids Fitness Day.
Weede was one of 40 sites participating in what organizers believed would involve 18,000 youths. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment began the annual event, held the first Friday in May, in 2000 with the assistance of the Governor’s Council on Fitness.
PSU’s event was put on by the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation, and coordinated by instructor Shelly Grimes.
“The way we live the first one-third of our lives often determines how we live the last one-third of our lives, such as increased chance of heart disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome,” Grimes said. “It’s important that kids realize they need to have daily physical activity if they want to be healthy adults and, eventually, healthy seniors.”
The 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted in Kansas high schools reported that almost 25 percent of students surveyed were either overweight or at risk of becoming overweight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and adolescents participate in 60 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week, preferably daily.
In the same survey, only 49 percent of Kansas high school students reported being physically active for a total of 60 minutes per day on five or more of the past seven days. Without recess and a daily physical education class, it’s a challenge to meet that goal in school, some teachers in attendance Friday noted, and some youths might not be motivated to do it at home.
Grimes hoped Friday’s event might inspire them to get moving.
Melissa Wesley, a teacher at Liberty Elementary School in Galena, Kan., said her classes have been coming for eight years and always look forward to it.
“It shows us new games to try and things we can take back and do at our school,” she said. “The kids love it.”
Each station was led by a PSU physical education major. David Brown, a Parsons junior who will graduate in May 2014, said the experience gave him the opportunity to try activities with real students.
“It helps me prepare for my job one day, and see how things work,” he said.
Alexis Byrd, from Riverton, said her favorite activity was karate, led by PSU faculty member Jim Otter, who holds a black belt and runs a martial arts studio in Pittsburg.
“I had never done it before,” she said. “The parachute games also were really fun, and I liked getting silly running races with the giant noodles.
“I would describe it as the best day I’ve ever had doing exercises. Sometimes I just sit on the couch at home, but now I might do some of these.”
Participating school districts included Riverton, Galena, Baxter Springs, Oswego, Parsons, Cherokee, Girard, Pittsburg, Frontenac, Arma, Fort Scott, Mound City, Erie, and St. Mary's Catholic schools in Pittsburg and Fort Scott.