Project Fit America
Project Fit America (PFA) is a national public charity that relies on hospitals across the country to pay for grant awards that provide this unique exercise equipment and a classroom health curriculum to schools. Gottlieb Memorial Hospital has sponsored the PFA program since 1995. In 2007, Gottlieb awarded its 12th grant to St. Paul Lutheran School in Melrose Park, IL.
Scott School Celebrates Project Fit
In November, 2008, Project Fit grant recipient Scott School in Melrose Park demonstrated their dedication to good health through a health education fair. Scott School students demonstrated the special exercises they have been practicing for their parents and family. Gottlieb president, John Morgan, congratulated principal, Carrie Novak, and her staff for their dedication to good health.
Watch the festivities at Scott School's Health Fair (Video clip: Media Player is required)
A Family Opportunity to Get Fit Together
Gottlieb Memorial Hospital is proud to sponsor St. Paul Lutheran, our 12th Project Fit program recipient. The students at St. Paul are taking a big step in improving their fitness, why not join them and make it a family affair?
Here are some ideas from Brian Williams, physiologist at Gottlieb Center for Fitness:
- Family walks, hikes and bike rides are great opportunities to share some quality time together while getting a leisurely work out. Best of all, they can be done anywhere and almost anytime, making it easy to establish an evening or weekend routine. If the weather is bad, opt for a family swim at an area pool, ice skating at an ice rink or basketball game at a recreation center.
- Host a low-fat pot luck dinner. When you host the sports team dinner, neighborhood get together or holiday party, ask everyone to bring a low fat, healthy dish. Thanks to many online offerings and healthy cooking magazines, there are plenty of recipes that look good, taste good and are good for you.
- Kids really work up a sweat playing, whether it is laser tag or soccer; adults can join in too to make it more fun and an exciting source of exercise for everyone. Zoos and museums are excellent ways to increase walking. Roller and ice skating offer terrific ways to get a good cardio workout.
- Institute a “Grill or Chill” night. Pick one day a week where you either grill dinner or serve a salad entrée. Grilled fish and meats don’t require additional cooking oils and are better for you than fried, breaded or heavily-sauced items. And salads are a great way to sample fresh seasonal produce while getting your quota of fruits and vegetables.
- Plan a family overnight camp-out or an all-day hike. Illinois offers many forest preserve trails and state park camping grounds to experience nature and the great outdoors. Seasonal activities such as apple-picking, pumpkin patch and cornfield maze visits as well as holiday tree farms and outdoor ice rinks make being outdoors timely and fun.
Project Fit America Background Information
There’s a silent epidemic raging in this country, which will lead—in the next few decades—to a greatly increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes and other lifestyle-related illnesses—along with accelerating health-care costs.
The problem is that children in the United States are overweight and unfit; more so than any other generation in American history, with no end in sight to this alarming trend. And unfit, obese children will grow into unfit, obese adults with serious and expensive medical conditions. Between the popularity of high-fat fast foods and a seductive variety of sedentary pleasures (TV, computer games, etc.), kids today are eating poorly and not exercising. At the same time, schools are cutting back or eliminating physical education programs.
Creating healthy communities
Project Fit America (PFA) is a not-for-profit corporation based in California whose national goal is to improve children’s fitness levels and motivate them to follow healthy lifestyles. Since it was founded in 1990, PFA has brought its fitness concept to more than 400,000 children in 524 schools in 40 states—funded primarily by hospitals as grant sponsors.
And the program works. Project Fit has shown a measured improvement from one year to the next in children’s fitness abilities.
Gottlieb Memorial Hospital brought Project Fit to Illinois in 1995 with its sponsorship of Westchester Middle School in Westchester, and has added 11 more sponsored schools to date. The schools won a $13,000 grant from Gottlieb in a formal grant application competition.
Each grant has paid for:
- An outdoor, fitness circuit of seven exercise stations installed next to each school. It is a 45 x 60 square foot total motion fitness center that allows teachers to address each child’s specific needs, and can also be used within the context of group activities with up to 32 children working out simultaneously. Focusing on the development of lower body, abdominal, upper body and cardiovascular endurance, the course features a pole climb, vault bar, sit-up station, pull-up bar, horizontal ladder, step test and parallel bars.
- Indoor fitness equipment, that includes:o 1,500 Fitness Cups—These are fitness cups for explosive cardio, teamwork, challenge and cooperation with kids. These cups are a PFA innovation and widley successful with kids and teachers.o A squad set of five sport hoops—The multi-colored hoops are three pounds in weight and great for sustaining upper body strength, cardio and abdominal training and development.o Pacer Cadence Tape—This activity is lead in an area as small as 48-60 feet and provides outstanding cardio training. Kids shuttle run in a timed sequence to a "beeped" cadence.
- A K-12 cardiovascular health and fitness education curriculum is provided to each sponsored school. It consists of more than 100 lesson plans researched and tested by physical education and elementary education experts at UCLA. While the focus is on improving strength, endurance and flexibility using the PFA equipment, students are also taught how to assume personal responsibility for their fitness beyond the school day. Instructional topics also address nutrition, substance abuse, heart health information and esteem-building.
- A teacher training and staff development component. This is a comprehensive in-service that covers techniques for teaching use of the equipment, student motivational strategies and how to integrate the Project Fit program into the school’s P.E. curriculum.
All PFA schools participate in a two-year testing and evaluation for project measurement. The most commonly used method of testing are the testing guidelines established by two governing bodies for physical education: The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and The American Alliance for Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Testing areas are:
- Paced, full-mile run/walk to measure cardiovascular endurance
- Sit and reach to measure flexibility· Pull-up to measure upper-body strength
- Sit-up to measure abdominal strength
Children are base-line tested on the equipment early in the school year and then are retested in the spring to measure the change in group fitness levels.
Achieving positive resultsPFA national testing results for 2006-2007 indicate that PFA school students nationwide are showing an average increase of:
- 23 percent in upper body strength
- 14 percent in abdominal strength
- 8 percent in cardiovascular endurance
- 43 percent in lower body strength
Students at Gottlieb-sponsored schools are experiencing similar improvements.
Scott Elementary School in Melrose Park reported an average increase of:
- 30 percent in upper body strength
- 25 percent in abdominal strength
- 42 percent in lower body strength
John F. Kennedy School in Schiller Park reported an average increase of:
- 13 percent in upper body strength
- 5 percent in abdominal strength
- 13 percent in cardiovascular endurance
St. Vincent Ferrer School in River Forest reported an average increase of:
- 14 percent in lower body strength
- National Record Set by Schiller Park student: In Spring of 2007, seven-year-old Daria Twarowski, a first grader at John F. Kennedy Middle School in Schiller Park, set a national PFA record—37 rotations (round trips) on the horizontal ladder. The previous record was 26 rotations, set by a first-grade girl in Chuckey, Tennessee.
- St. Paul Lutheran School, Melrose Park
- John F. Kennedy School, Schiller Park
- Scott Elementary School, Melrose Park
- St. Vincent Ferrer School, River Forest
- Proviso East High School, Maywood
- St. Celestine School, Elmwood Park
- Lincoln Elementary School, River Forest
- Whittier Elementary School, Northlake
- Northlake Middle School, Northlake
- Ridgewood High School, Norridge
- Riley Elementary School, Northlake
- Westchester Middle School, Westchester
St. Paul Lutheran School Overview
St. Paul Lutheran School, 1025 Lake Street, Melrose Park and is this year’s recipient of the Project Fit grant of $13,000 sponsored by Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. St. Paul Lutheran School was established more than a century ago, decades in advance of the church by the same name. Approximately 215 students from the Melrose Park, Maywood and Bellwood area attend pre-kindergarten to eighth grade. The school is racially diverse with the student body being 65 percent African-American, 20 percent Anglo and 15 percent Hispanic.
St. Paul Lutheran’s motto is “A multi-ethnic family of faith where all are welcomed to grow with God.” They are a member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
St. Paul Lutheran was able to further upgrade their school grounds this year with the bequest from life-long member Sylvia Behrens. Sylvia passed away last year at the age of 95 and was dedicated to physical fitness and exercise. Sylvia was an avid member of several area hiking clubs including Walther League Hiking Club and Prairie Hiking Club. To commemorate Sylvia’s memory and generous donation, a granite bench has been placed on the school playground with a plaque bearing her name. Several members who hiked with Sylvia throughout her venerable life attended the ceremony and accepted a plant on her behalf.
In homage to their patron as well as to the occasion, students created poems about the importance of a healthy lifestyle. The poems read aloud at the equipment dedication ceremony include:
- Fitness Surprise: God's grace helped us win the race. We won the prize. We got exercise equipment. That was a big surprise. With God as my witness, I will learn to exercise. I will practice every day. That would be very wise. Sarah G., 7th Grade
- You should go outside and play. To beat obesity today. Hurry up and don't delay. Get some exercise, what do you say? Angela T., 8th Grade
- If you have speed,you will be in the lead. If you run with acceleration,you will win with determination. When you do fitness, you will have quickness. Jameer T., 7th Grade
Facts and Figures on Childhood Obesity
From the U.S. Surgeon General's Report on Obesity:
- Over 20-million children are overweight by an average of 8.3 pounds
- Childhood obesity has tripled since 1980
- One in six American children are classified as physically underdeveloped
- More than half the girls and one quarter of the boys ages 6-17 cannot run a mile faster than walking
- Seventy percent of girls in this age group cannot do more than one pull up, and 55 percent of the boys cannot do even one
- Forty percent of American children aged 5-8 years show one or more risk factors of heart disease including: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and low cardiovascular endurance.
This lack of fitness and health awareness in children contributes to many problems cited by schoolteachers. Examples cited include, but are not limited to:
- Lack of self-esteem in children, which contributes to poor choices
- Aggressive behavior in children, which contributes to classroom disruptions and playground fights
- Experimenting with unsafe diet practices (fasting, diet pills, anabolic steroids).
The July 1996 Report by the U.S. Surgeon General on Physical Activity and Health states:
- Nearly half the young people 12-21 years of age are not vigorously active, moreover, physical activity sharply declines during adolescence.
- Childhood may thus be a pivotal time for preventing sedentary behavior among adults by maintaining the habit of physical activity throughout school years.
- Every effort should be made to encourage schools to require daily physical education in each grade to promote physical activities that can be enjoyed throughout life.