GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

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May 3, 2013

Beeman kids have fun getting fit

Beeman kids having fun while getting fit

With childhood obesity rates alarming parents and medical professionals more than ever — and scientists simultaneously tying exercise to increased learning capacity — a group of Beeman Memorial School adults teamed up to inspire a change.

Now, Beeman kids are stomping out the obesity statistics and firing up their brains for learning, one lap at a time.

Kids outfitted in various apparel from athletic shorts and sweatshirts to jeans, sparkly T-shirts, hair ribbons and yoga pants, trotted around cones on Beeman’s grassy field before school Thursday.

“It’s a good source of exercise,” said third grader Sameera Arif after she finished her laps. “It really wakes me up in the morning.”

The running program, inspired by Rockport Elementary School’s similar and successful running club, kicked off this spring. School Nurse Janet Dickinson said she had been hoping to get this kind of program off the ground for a while, but when All-American runner Peter Asaro joined the teaching team as a para professional and special ed staffer Layce Alves, one of Cape Ann’s leading competitive runners, stepped up to the plate to help, the group hit the ground running.

The kids meet Tuesday and Thursday mornings for about an hour each day. They jog warm ups, then stretch out and follow up with a game-type exercise. Thursday’s game glob tag, a team-style game of tag.

Dickinson elected one volunteer to start as “it,” then joined the girl to help chase others down, laughing, jogging and encouraging the kids to keep on moving. Meanwhile Alves led a group of fifth graders on a mile run.

“They have fun and are moving at the same time,” Dickinson said.

As obesity rates hit highs, a state study from Sept. 2012 discovered that 10.9 percent of adolescents measure obese and another 14.9 percent fall into the overweight range. Of the students that the state surveyed in their state nutrition, physical activity and obesity profile, 23.3 percent did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on any of the seven days leading up to the survey.

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