Fitness program turns focus to kids

Camas-Washougal effort rewards activity with adults

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

Published:

 

The local group combating east county residents' growing waistlines is taking aim at another population: children.

Organizers of the community weight-loss campaign Camas and Washougal on a Diet have launched a new program designed to get east county kids, and their parents, moving.

To learn more

• Information about Take Your Parent for a Walk, click here

To register for the New Year's Day 5K in Washougal:

http://fat2fitnw.com/events

"With the obesity rate being what it is, we need to do something," said Michelle Clark, health coach for Camas and Washougal on a Diet. "It may not be a lot, but if they're active for 15 minutes, at least it's something."

The program, Take Your Parent for a Walk, is a partnership between the weight-loss campaign and local schools. The program encourages kids to exercise with an adult for at least 15 minutes a day and rewards physical activity with prizes.

So far, kids are up for the challenge.

"Kids are loving being able to drive their parents to go out and be active with them," Clark said.

The program is simple. Students who attend participating schools fill out a slip of paper for every 15 minutes of exercise they complete with an adult (one per day). Those slips of paper are then submitted to school officials, who enter the child's name into a drawing for prizes.

The schools hold the drawings weekly and hand out prizes, which include pedometers from Walgreens and gift cards for Squeeze & Grind smoothies, Subway sandwiches and Menchie's frozen yogurt.

The grand prize for the two children with the most exercise is a $25 gift card to the G6 Airpark in Vancouver.

Healthier grades

Seven east county schools have launched the program over the last six weeks: Lacamas Heights, Dorothy Fox, Hathaway, Gause and Illahee elementary schools; and Canyon Creek and Jemtegaard middle schools.

At Canyon Creek, participating in the program can also boost students' grades.

Scott Dizmang, a physical education teacher at the middle school, offers his students extra credit points for every slip of paper they submit. Those extra credit points can help students make up absences.

"What we're trying to do is bring the kids to realize they can help those around them with changing their fitness levels too," Dizmang said.

Dizmang's students have gotten active in a variety of ways. They've taken walks with grandparents, gone on family hikes during the weekend, raced against Dad and gone on bike rides with Mom.

"As a P.E. teacher, anything we can do to get them to think about their fitness levels and get them out of the house … is a positive for me," Dizmang said.

And when Dizmang says "anything" to get kids active, he means anything.

The program is hosting a New Year's Day 5K run/walk in Washougal. If at least 50 Washougal students sign up for the event with an adult, Dizmang said he will run the 5K in a high school cheerleader outfit.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes to get people out and get active," he said.


Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546; http://twitter.com/col_health;http://facebook.com/reporterharshman;marissa.harshman@columbian.com.