Making fitness a priority can be an uphill battle for students faced with the growth of technological entertainment and an increased emphasis on test preparation. According to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, only one in three children gets enough physical activity, and children spend an average of seven hours in front of TV and computer screens per day. Starting an after-school fitness club can be a gateway to helping students develop a healthy lifestyle.
Getting a fitness club off the ground requires you to gain school support and create student awareness, according to school fitness organization Fuel Up to Play 60. Finding a location for meetings, enlisting the help of the physical education department and advertising the club's benefits all are necessary strategies leading up to the group's launch. You also might consider applying for grants to fund the club. Teacher Jon Stenger, who started a fitness club at his West Lawn, Pa., elementary school, was able to purchase treadmills and stationary bikes with grant money from the Highmark Foundation.
In addition to the traditional methods of posters and advertisements on the morning announcements, a kickoff event is a great way to get students interested in the club. You can host a party at a local park and play games that involve physical activity, like kickball, capture the flag and relay races. The menu can be comprised of healthy snacks like fruit salad, juice and whole-grain muffins. Participating physical education teachers also can set up stations where students can learn about the importance of healthy eating and exercise and receive an invitation to join the club.
Your club should encourage students to develop healthy personal goals in a fun, motivating way. The fitness club of Hampton Township Schools in Allison Park, Pa., suggests introducing students to concepts like healthy weight, strength and cardiovascular health, then letting them set individual goals for things to improve. Students can motivate themselves by writing down their goals and making action plans for reaching them. Because a positive environment is crucial to your club's success, you should advise students that they are to encourage and support each other and that insults or inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated.
Many students may be reluctant to join because they think they aren't athletic or don't enjoy team sports. Teaching students that fitness can be any physical activity they enjoy can motivate them to get involved. Your meetings can offer both individual fitness activities like running, biking or jumping rope, as well as traditional games that can be played in a group. You also can design specific activities to fit students' individual goals. For example, if a student wants to improve his cardiovascular health, you might encourage him to work toward running a mile in the appropriate time for his age.
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