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In so many ways, February is one of the months where being active is difficult – which makes it perfect for Mooseheart’s “Fitness in February” activities, an annual series of events designed to get the campus’ children in-motion.
To that end, there have been a variety of activities to get children of all ages active, and partnerships with local organizations have helped.
“We’ve been doing it for several years as an activity for National Heart Month, starting on a yearly “February Fitness” contest. Last year, the Mooseheart wellness committee got together and decided we wanted to do this on a larger scale, and that was the first year we developed a calendar of month-long events. It was very successful and most of all, the children had fun, Mooseheart Community Nurse Kathy O’Brien RN, MSN said.
In many ways, Mooseheart’s children are no different from any others in a country where issues of childhood obesity have reached headline-creating proportions. O’Brien said creating an attitude where fitness is important and is carried through life is also a focus.
“We want to Increase everyone’s awareness across all areas of the campus that while the children are here, we want them to learn what a healthy lifestyle is. The best way to teach them that is to practice it,” O’Brien said.
The variety of different ways the campus worked to keep its children active has been endless. In addition to offseason workouts for both boys and girls and in-season competition for middle school and high school athletes, local Xport Fitness facilities led on-campus workouts, Geneva’s Excel Gymnastics hosted the campus’ elementary-aged girls for weekend workouts; AllStar Sports in St. Charles hosted clinics and Aurora’s Vaughn Center sponsored activities. There was also on-campus instruction in kickboxing, dancing and “pound” workouts as well as “surprise sports,” which involved many sports including dodgeball. Mooseheart’s Recreation Department, headed by Bryan Miller, plays a crucial role, O’Brien said.
“February activities include a variety of different events so each child hopefully will find something fun that they would like to do and get some exercise at the same time,” O’Brien said.
Linking these activities were nutritional discussions sponsored by Benedictine University. O’Brien said the nutritional education is every bit as important as the physical activities. At Mooseheart, dietician services are provided by Mary Zupke, MS, RN, LDN and “my plate” educational programs for both children and staff are offered.
“Many of our children come here having never having been exposed to fresh fruits or vegetables It is a challenge to try to get them to try healthier foods but persistence pays off,” O’Brien said.
“Leap into March,” on Feb. 29, is the last event of “Fitness in February.” While the focused surge will end, plans are in-place to keep children active through spring and beyond. O’Brien added that a partnership with Benedictine University is leading to health-based analysis.
“We hope to review health data for every child every year such as BMI (Body Mass Index) and physical fitness scores as a way to measure whether our efforts are making a difference. We feel we are on the right track, and we are going to keep going,” O’Brien said.