STUDENTS WALK 2,679 MILES TO STAMP OUT CHILDHOOD OBESITY
Success of program leads administrators to making walking a part of school’s curriculum.
Students at Windham Middle School recently walked 535.9 million steps – or 2,679 miles – thanks to a grant from the SBM Charitable Foundation to address the problem of childhood obesity. The Windham Wildcat Marathoners participated in a walking and nutrition project this past year in an effort to take a stand against this growing national health crisis among youth.
The project was a collaboration between Windham Hospital (the Windham Hospital Foundation secured the grant), Windham Middle School, the Family Resource Center and the parents of the participating students.
Nutritionists from Windham Hospital provided lessons in healthy eating and the fifth graders used pedometers to track their walking on the track after school and during recess, which the school designates as spa time.
In addition to the daily walking regimen, which was overseen by Sheryl Fraser, a physical education teacher at the middle school, the grant provided funding to bring Robert Sweetgall to the area to talk about walking, wellness and active living.
Robert Sweetgall has initiated walking programs in six schools in Northeastern CT in addition to personally trekking across America the equivalent of seven times. He is the only person to have walked through all 50 states, has authored 17 books on walking and wellness and has appeared on hundreds of radio/TV talk shows while speaking to people worldwide. After his visit to Windham Middle School, administrators agreed to make walking a part of the curriculum.
“I really liked the program because you get to exercise and enjoy having fun with your friends,” said Heaven Flores, 11. “I learned that in place of watching TV, you can stay healthy by going outside for a walk with your friends instead,” added Iralys Valido, 11. The girls also said they liked receiving special charms that marked every 1,000 steps that they walked and the healthy snacks that they received.
Suzanne Gerety-Ferreira, the hospital’s coordinator for the program, says she was delighted to learn about a student who asked the middle school nurse if he could be weighed. When the nurse – out of curiosity – asked why, he responded that he had been walking for 30 minutes every day and wanted to know if it had made a difference. Suzanne concludes, “He had lost 14 pounds—the direct result of increased physical activity. This is the sort of positive impact a program like this can make!”
Windham Hospital is a 130-bed acute care hospital serving thousands of people in northeastern Connecticut. For nearly 80 years Windham Hospital has been renowned for its outstanding physicians and extraordinary nursing care and today offers a unique combination of talent and technology in patient care as a member of Hartford HealthCare, Connecticut’s premier healthcare system.