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Promoting a healthy lifestyle at more schools

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McCRACKEN Co, Ky -

Kentucky’s high school students have the worst obesity rate in the United States, according to StateofObesity.org.

Baptist Health Paducah is working with McCracken County and Paducah Public Schools to help bring these numbers down in the future by promoting a healthy lifestyle early in middle school and elementary school.

Project Fit America is a fitness program aimed at reducing childhood obesity. Heath Elementary, Morgan Elementary, and Reidland Intermediate held celebrations Wednesday because they're adding the program to their schools.

Baptist Health invested nearly $50,000 in grants for the three schools to receive indoor and outdoor fitness equipment, teacher training, and curriculum materials. This bring the total number of schools involved in the area to 11 since 2007.

Jamey Harris, a fourth-grade student and recent national record breaker in the pacer challenge for Project Fit, says he doesn't see the playground as fitness equipment but as a way to have fun and play games.

“You could do a pull up challenge against your friends, and you could, like, do the pole climbing...I think it’s for fun. You just try to do everything for fun,” Jamey said.

Baptist Health Paducah Chief Operating Officer Bonnie Schrock says it’s about harnessing kids' energy productively, "in a way that really produces a lifelong habit of exercise, and good diet, and other things that will improve their health outcomes later on in life."

The goal is for kids to be active at least one hour a day to improve strength, endurance, and flexibility. Schrock says the second thing is choosing a healthy diet, expanding their taste buds to try different things, and eliminating fast foods and sugary sodas as much as possible. She says the program’s third objective is committing to never using any tobacco products.

It's the fun kids have and the programs reward incentives that PE teacher April Melton says continually motivate her students.

“Before, I would try to get them to do cardio and running and stuff, and they would say, ‘Oh I'm sick, I'm tired,’ or something like that. Now, there isn't anything like that,” Melton said.

Melton hopes students at the schools will encourage their families and siblings to come out and use the playgrounds after school or on the weekends to keep encouraging a healthy life style.  

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