Sports

Fighting obesity one step, one rep at a time

It’s 35 minutes of sweat ond effort during a recent Introduction to Fitness class at Central Kitsap High in the new fitness room located next to the weight room.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
It’s 35 minutes of sweat ond effort during a recent Introduction to Fitness class at Central Kitsap High in the new fitness room located next to the weight room.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

It’s time for P.E. class at Central Kitsap High School, but this isn’t the P.E. you grew up doing.

There’s no basketballs in sight. Ditto volleyballs or badmiton racquets or even a gymnasium.

Instead the kids are in an 1,800-square-foot room in the bowels of the school on workout machines or going through step exercises.

Welcome to the new era of P.E. where athletic endeavors aren’t measured by jump shots but by heart-rate monitors. Where kids can view their workout results on-line instead of a chart on the wall. Where what the other kids are doing doesn’t matter to you.

“We’ve been trying to revamp our program for a number of years,” said CK P.E. teacher Bill Baxter. “We’ve tried to get away from the sports and activities and focus on fitness because we’re seeing epidemic proportions of kids with obesity and diabetes.”

According to the Center for Disease Control, the obesity rate in the U.S. has increased by 60 percent since 1985 among adults and the rate among youth is even higher.

“The nutrition habits aren’t what they once were and obesity is definitely an issue,” said Ted Vaughn, a P.E. teacher at Olympic since 1979. “Studies show there’s no question more and more people are obese since 1985 and the trend is mind-boggling.”

With changing their curriculum to meet the times, both Baxter and Vaughn applied for a number of grants over the years to get funds to no avail. Then CK principal John Cervinsky told Baxter last June about a grant from the National School Fitness Foundation which provides $250,000 of workout equipment to schools for free.

The only catch — schools have to dedicate at least 1,800-square feet of dedicated space, provide the required flooring and follow the Foundation’s program for three years. Both schools applied and were accepted for the program which is just now getting under way at CK with 18 resistance machines and five cardio machines and expected to begin in late October or early November at Olympic once the space requirements are met.

“The way this works is the National School Fitness Foundation has the district take out a lease on the equipment and then reimburses the district through private and government funds,” Baxter said Wednesday afternoon. “We have to run their program for three years which is something identical to what I’d do if I had this facility without their funding.”

And while each school plans to use the workout room for all of its P.E. classes, the emphasis is on the Intro to Fitness class each sophomore is required to take.

“We’re trying to change how people view P.E.,” Baxter said. “For the most part, when kids leave high school, this is the equipment they’re going to use. The kids that are athletes and like the weight room will stick with that.

“But for the general population of kids this is like, ‘wow, I don’t have to go out and have balls thrown at me. I can go and work on fitness.’”

Early indications among students were supportive of the change.

“The equipment is really nice compared to what we had at Ridgetop Junior High,” sophomore Casey Shelton said.

“And it’s more interesting because you can work on your own instead of being on a team,” said sophomore Donna Pergakis.

And the workouts aren’t easy. The kids spend 30 seconds on a resistance machine by doing 10 reps at 80 percent of their maximum weight. Then they rotate to a step station where they march up and down for 50 seconds before going on to the next station. It takes 35 minutes to rotate through the circuit where the kids are required to keep their hearts beating 150-200 beats per minute in what is known as the “target zone.”

“The circuit is hard,” said Baxter’s wife Denise, who also is a P.E. teacher at CK. “I had three kids come up to me and say ‘they’ve never sweated so hard in a P.E. class before in their life,’ and three times a week they’ll be doing this. They’re going to see good changes in their bodies. Hopefully this is a life-long thing.”

And this is a class that you can’t just go through the motions and expect to get away with it.

Bill Baxter pulled out a foot-long rod that the kids are expected to grasp to determine their heart rate. Those not in their target zone are expected to work out harder while others might have to slow down. It’s an extremely effective tool to get the kids moving.

“The kids that aren’t excited about it are the ones that know they have to work and they can’t hide,” Denise said. “You bust those heart-rate monitors out, they know what’s going on. And that makes it realistic when you can assess them.”

After their workouts, each student is required to enter their results into a computer and then have the opportuinty to see how they’re doing on-line. As part of the program, the schools also are required to turn the results over to the foundation as part of a nationwide study.

“The technology could be a motivator for the students,” Vaughn said. “This is one of the best monitoring systems I’ve ever seen.”

Both schools plan to have the facility open both before and after school for students and staff.

“The whole focus of all our classes is on fitness because that’s where the need is and that’s where we need to go,” Bill Baxter said. “We still can’t believe at what we’ve got.”

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