Exercise to excel
Published 9:47 am Friday, March 1, 2013
Fitness results look promising at Southwest Middle School
Students at Southwest Middle School are reaching new milestones in the effort to be more physically fit.
Gym teachers Karol Hansen and Brenda Morris are seeing the vast majority of their students improving during tests. The district bought the Fitnessgram activity and testing program a few years ago. About 75 percent of middle-schoolers at that time were in the right healthy fitness zone, which promotes students to improve their aerobic capacity, body composition, strength, endurance and flexibility. This year, about 90 to 95 percent of Southwest students are in the healthy fitness zone.
“It’s amazing how well they’re doing,” Morris said.
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Morris and Hansen made aerobic capacity their main target area for helping students improve, so sixth- and seventh-graders are running a PACER test every other week to measure improvement. PACER stands for progressive aerobic cardiovascular endurance run.
The PACER is similar to shuttle runs, where students run across the gym, about 20 meters, at a pace that increases each minute. In PACER laps, 80 equals one mile. While the school still has students run the mile, Morris said the PACER creates more positive experiences for students.
“With the mile, if you are really slow, you’ll be dead last,” Morris said.
At the start of the school year, about 80 percent of students were ranked in the healthy fitness zone. Now, the school has almost 95 percent of students at that mark, and both Morris and Hansen hope someday to have 100 percent of their middle-schoolers in that healthy zone.
The teachers also have noticed that students are more likely to encourage each other during the PACER tests. Each student has a partner that keeps track of their laps, and those students often cheer the others on. Even other students who are running will offer encouragement to those jogging next to them.
“And they all contribute to lap averages so even those few who aren’t in the healthy zone still contribute,” Morris said.
Hansen has noticed that students are also trying to be more healthy in general, and she said she’s proud of how well they’re doing.
“This year all of our students are doing a phenomenal job,” Hansen said. “I do think there are kids trying to be more healthy.”
The high school and elementary schools also use the same assessment program. The idea was to promote lifelong physical activity among students. Morris said the school will be going toward fitness-based curriculum where they will grade students on improvement efforts.