Several South Florida teens recently took part in an innovative program promoting physical activity and group-oriented activities which often aren’t available to home-schooled students.
Ready, Set, RUN!, a program of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, was held during a 12-week period at the Scientastic Institute in Wellington, Fla.
“The kids reported being able to work and focus better after an hour of physical activity,” said Heather LaFlame, who conducted the program with Samara Osowiecki, owner of the Institute. “They also reported feeling better in general after getting out in the fresh air.”
This group had typically spent most of their days inside studying and playing video games, so the opportunity to participate in a structured – and fun – program that got them moving was embraced by everyone.
“I enjoyed the time outside and running with my friends,” said Dominic, age 13. “It was a good break from being inside most of the day and it was fun when we used the nature trails and got to see some cool wildlife. I felt a lot better after getting up and moving and now that I am into running it has helped my focus on homework.”
Ready, Set, RUN! is designed to build confidence and character in participants while working toward the goal of completing a 5K run. The program also places an emphasis on life skill development and offers participants an opportunity to learn about the value of healthy eating habits, positive goal setting, giving back to the community, and more.
The program has been used by recreation agencies nationwide looking to add more heart-healthy activities to their program menus. This marked the first time the Scientastic Institute tried incorporating a fitness-focused program into their curriculum.
“The weather can be unbearable at times in South Florida, making it hard to get kids outside,” Osowiecki said. “So we scheduled our runs in the early evenings after the sun had set and it had cooled down.”
The coordinators also took advantage of their surroundings to not only provide the teen students with healthy activity, but they blended in some learning along the way, too. “We would use the village’s nature and fitness trails and get in a quick lesson on physics, biology, ecology and other sciences along the way,” Osowiecki said.
As the students put their lungs and muscles to use in the program, the coordinators also kept close tabs on their progress and made adjustments along the way.
“When we would start our session I would ask the kids how they felt and they all reported stiff muscles from sitting so much while doing their school work,” LaFlame said. “So we incorporated a little more yoga and stretching into our program to counteract that.”
The program also proved beneficial for one student who competes in sports and was accustomed to workouts. “I do a lot of physical activity already and taking up running a few times a week has really helped me in my other sports,” said 13-year-old Hannah. “My sore muscles heal faster and I can train longer without needing a break.”
Based on how much these teens enjoyed their introduction to running and learning other skills in a group setting, Ready, Set, RUN! can be the perfect addition for other communities looking to provide physical activities for home-schooled students.
“The program is fantastic,” LaFlame said. “To see this group of teens, who for the most part had been spending a lot of time indoors, genuinely be excited about participating and having a great time was really rewarding.”Running Fitness Health
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