School system kicks off Fit Fayette

Tue, 11/06/2007 - 5:29pm
By: The Citizen

The Fayette County Public School System tips the scales when it comes to academics, the higher the numbers the better. But escalating numbers isn’t what the county wants to see when it comes to the weight of their employees.

In an effort to help employees embrace healthier habits and lifestyles, the school system has launched its own employee wellness program called Fit Fayette. So far over 300 of the school system’s more than 3,200 employees have signed up to participate.

Not only is the program aimed at helping adults become healthier, but it also provides a way for them to model healthy behaviors for students. In the end, it is hoped that this initiative will create an enhanced learning environment for both students and employees.

“Our mission statement says the school system ‘commits to excellence through effective instruction, high expectations and continued improvement.’ We feel that physical fitness and good health leads to an improved learning capacity as well as a better overall lifestyle. Our commitment to this program goes hand in hand with our mission,” says Deborah Friday, physical education teacher at Peeples Elementary and coordinator of the Fit Fayette program.

Here’s how the program works. Participants take part in an initial screening, conducted by a school nurse, to document their blood pressure, waist girth and body mass index (BMI, which is a correlation of weight to height).

Participants then begin exercising and eating healthier such as avoiding fried foods, drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day and getting eight hours of sleep per night. Points are given for each healthy activity achieved. Participants keep a log of their points and turn them into their team captains at the end of each month for prizes.

Participants will be screened mid-way through the year to document their progress and then again at the end of the year. Prizes will be awarded to the individuals with the most improvement in weight loss, blood pressure and waist girth.

Velocity Sports Performance in Peachtree City has stepped in to help sponsor the program and provide prizes and special training events to participants. The company will help purchase participant t-shirts, provide nine grand prizes for the overall winners at the end of the program, hold special training events at various schools and offer special discounted training package options to participants.

“Velocity is very excited to partner with the county’s school system to support and enhance the wellness initiative,” says Michelle Wrobleski, operations and marketing director for Velocity Sports Performance.

Although this is the first school system sponsored fitness program, Fayette kicked off its wellness initiative in January 2007 by participating in Southern Regional Hospital’s “Schools on the Move” program. Over 900 participants signed up with many of them losing weight and waist girth and lowering their blood pressure and BMI.

Sandy Creek High teacher Theresa Roberts was last year’s blood pressure winner. She credits the program with actually saving her life and putting her on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

“I decided to join the program with several other teachers here at school. When the school nurse [Marnie Sparks] took my blood pressure and found out how long it had been since I had been to a doctor, well, she yelled at me! I always made sure my children, husband and even my dogs went to the doctor/vet annually, but did not take care of myself,” she says.

Roberts had planned to wait until the summer to go to the doctor but called for an appointment right away at the urging of Sparks.

“I went for a mammogram and it was discovered that I had breast cancer. I was expecting them to talk to me about my weight and blood pressure, diet, etc. I certainly never expected the diagnosis I received,” she says.

“As a result of this experience, I joined the gym, work out almost daily and eat much better than I did before. I see many doctors regularly and will not neglect my own health any longer. I cannot take care of my family and my students here at school if I don't take care of myself.”

Janene Giordano of Sandy Creek High and Christopher Harper of Rising Starr Middle were last year’s waist girth and BMI winners, respectively.

The Fit Fayette wellness program began October 15 and will run through April 25. Fit Fayette also has a dedicated web page on the school system’s website at Click on the link “Wellness Initiative” on the left to learn more about the program as well as download tips for healthier living and links to websites geared toward promoting healthy habits and lifestyles.

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