Heart-pumping exercise hardware

CMS gets equipment donations to begin fitness training

Being turned down for a nearly $500,000 grant didn't stop the Craig Middle School fitness team from moving forward with goals of combating obesity among youths.

Instead, they modified their program and asked the community for help.

And help came pouring in.

More than $5,000 has been donated toward the purchase of equipment that will help sixth- and seventh-grade teachers implement a full-scale health, fitness and nutrition program.

CMS physical education teachers already have put some resources into creating a workout room that focuses on developing lifelong exercise habits tailored to individuals. The school's auxiliary gym was cut in half to create a classroom for health studies, which students are required to take for one quarter during their seventh- and eighth-grade years.

The other half of the gym has been set up for cardiovascular workouts and weightlifting.

But most of the equipment in the room has been loaned or donated and is not commercial grade. Grant funds were intended to be used in part to purchase new, high-quality, safe fitness equipment.

When the grant request was denied, district officials solicited help from the community. City Market, ColoWyo Coal Company, Paint Dabbers, Trevenen Oil, Safeway, Cook Chevrolet and Tri-State Generation and Transmission stepped up.

With the funds donated, the school was able to purchase two treadmills, two upright bikes and an elliptical trainer.

Physical education teacher Susan Gregg thinks that the district didn't get the grant because it couldn't show community support.

The outpouring of funds might change that, and the district will reapply for the grant.

Until then, teachers will continue to work to bolster the program through their own methods.

"We can't count on the grant, which is why we're going to the community," Gregg said. "If we don't get it, we'll do it ourselves."

The American Academy of Family Physicians estimates that between 25 percent and 30 percent of children are overweight and calls the problem underdiagnosed and under treated.

In the last 30 years, the rate of obesity among 6- to 11-year-olds has risen from 4 percent to 13 percent. Among 12- to 19-year-olds, it went from 5 percent to 14 percent.

Offering cardiovascular and weight training gives students additional fitness options.

"It's more individualized," physical education teacher Dustin Ence said. "We still do a lot of team stuff, but this room gives students the chance to approach physical education from an individual standpoint and hopefully develop lifetime habits."

Students learn how to monitor their blood pressure and heart rate. They keep an "active lifestyle" log and training diary.

Physical education teacher Lowa Schultz said many students are surprised to find how much they improve during the course of a quarter.

"Our main goal," she said, "is to improve our Presidential Challenge fitness scores."

Last year, the first year the cardio program was implemented, fitness scores improved 5 percent.

But that's not the only step Craig Middle School is taking to help students live healthier lifestyles.

A fitness club starts this week. Funding from the Colorado Trust's Colorado on the Move grant will provide students with six to eight weeks of fun physical activities including ice skating, swimming, bowling and cross country skiing.

Twenty-two students have signed up for the fitness club, and organizer Becky Field expects more.

"It's really exciting," she said. "Most of these kids aren't in extra-curricular activities.

"We hope to teach kids that staying fit and staying active can be part of their lives and can be fun," she said.

One class will be dedicated to nutrition, and students will be able to prepare their own healthy snacks.

Fitness club starts Tuesday.

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