National program helps local elementary school get fit - - Jackson, MS

National program helps local elementary school get fit

JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

As many of us know, Mississippi ranks number one in the country when it comes to childhood obesity. But the Magnolia State also ranks pretty high when it comes to helping defeat the battle of the bulge. Thanks to a national program, the fight against the fat is taking place right in our local schools.

Students and faculty at Watkins Elementary school had lots of fun using some hula hoops Friday morning. But it wasn't just fun and games. Students and staff showed off some new fitness equipment to help them stay fit and healthy.

Watkins P. E. teacher, Kimberly Armstrong says, "you grab up and jump and grab the poles you walk down using your arms when you get to right here you swing your body and jump off."

The new fitness equipment was donated by the Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation's "Project Fit America" program. This is how it works.

Armstrong says, "when the students come out here they're given a number because we have 7 different stations, so they're given a number from 1 to 7 whatever number they're given they have 5 minutes to complete that task and once I say rotate they rotate to the next station."

It's all in an effort to fight obesity. Fifth grader Nakengee Lowes says, "after you're done your heart will be pumped and you'll want to do it way more and with the sit-ups I know a lot of boys want 6 packs and 8 packs so they would really want to do that."

Forty percent of children 5 to 8 years old show signs of heart disease and half of 12-21 year-olds aren't involved in vigorous physical activity. Also, 20 million children are about 8 pounds overweight, and many children 6-17 years old can't run a mile faster than they walk.

In light of those statistics, Watkins Elementary school is extremely excited about their new gift. Watkins principal Dr. Lisa Andrus-Johnson says, "I had to fight obesity when I was a child so I know how important it was for our children to have the necessary equipment  that they would need to fight obesity."

The "Project Fit America" program has already been very successful. 48% of schools that have already received "Project Fit America" equipment in the past have recorded an 8 percent or greater decrease in obesity.


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