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February is literally around the corner and that means the start to another series of Fitness in February activities at Mooseheart.
The campus gets a jump on the month this year with a kickoff event on Friday, Jan. 31 during the final period of the school day. A variety of activities to promote health and wellness will continue through February, culminating in “Leap into March” activities on Feb. 29.
“We want to keep the kids active. We know that being active affects not only their physical health but it’s great for their mental health as well. We hope it builds good habits that stay with the student long beyond February,” said Mooseheart Community Nurse Kathy O’Brien, RN, MSN.
February has been the month for this emphasis on health and wellness for years, O’Brien said. It is mid-winter, students tend to spend an abundance of time indoors and it is easy to become inactive. The lessons from the month are intended to extend far beyond the end of February.
“It’s easy to go home, sit on the couch and do nothing,” Mooseheart Executive Director Gary Urwiler said. “We want to spur people to get up and do something. No matter what age you are, we want to demonstrate to our entire community that wellness is a lifetime goal. Our goal is to get people moving every day and to keep them moving throughout the year.”
Fitness in February concentrates on more than exercise. O’Brien said she works with Mooseheart dietician Mary Zupke to demonstrate that healthy eating is just as important as exercising.
“Once a month through the year, (Zupke) and I have a food tasting with the students of a vegetable that’s been grown in the garden at Mooseheart. We cook a dish containing the food and let them sample it. Students learn where food is grown and become acquainted with foods they may have never experienced before,” O’Brien said.
Mooseheart’s motto is “Enter to learn; Leave to serve” – and Fitness in February’s educational component is important, O’Brien said.
“We want the kids to eat more vegetables, eat more whole grains and drink more water. We have some kids who come here who have never had fresh food or vegetables. Hopefully, as they learn a healthier lifestyle, they will have a healthier adulthood.” O’Brien said.
While students are learning, the emphasis during February is also on having fun. There will be team games in addition to musical chairs competition at the kickoff event. Throughout February, activities will include Zumba, yoga, game nights and dodgeball. In the evening on Feb. 12, there will be races involving some cardboard go-karts provided to Mooseheart for the month by Dr. Brad Christensen, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) specialist at Illinois State University in Normal.
“We try to make it fun,” O’Brien said. “It doesn’t work to tell kids to eat healthy and that they need to participate in exercise. It’s important that they enjoy it. It’s the same with adults. We want this to become a part of your day, something that you have fun doing.”