Area elementary students take part in third annual F.I.T. Kids ‘Walk For A Healthy Heart’

Elementary students from Kenndy, Manistee Catholic and Trinity Lutheran took part in a  F.I.T.  Kids healthy heart walk on Friday.

Elementary students from Kenndy, Manistee Catholic and Trinity Lutheran took part in a F.I.T. Kids healthy heart walk on Friday.

MANISTEE — They came, they walked and they danced — oh baby did they ever dance.

The River Street area between Maple and Greenbush  streets was a virtual sea of dancing, laughing and smiling elementary school students on Friday afternoon. Hundreds of students from Kennedy Elementary, Trinity Lutheran and Manistee Catholic Central schools took part in the Third annual F.I.T. (Fitness Intiative Targeting)  Kids ‘Walk For A Healthy Heart.’

West Shore Medical Center and the MSU Extension office team up every year to run the F.I.T. Kids program that teaches children ways to eat healthy and to exercise. Students are also tested for cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

West Medical Center F.I.T. Kids coordinator Dorothy Batzer said they coordinate the walk/dance each year during H.A.M. (Healthy Active Manistee)  It Up! Week. Students are fired up speech by City of Manistee Mayor Colleen Kenny before they embarked on a walk that leads them down to River Street in front of Snyder’s Shoes.

“We had our little flash mob exercise routine to a song called ‘Your Heart is a Muscle,'” said Batzer. “Snyder’s let us plug in audio equipment for Ed Petzak to get the River Rockin’ again this year. After we finished it was back to the school where Kennedy Elementary kids watched the kid’s version of ‘Weight of the Nation’, a PBS documentary on this issues related to obesity.”

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) continues to remain on the top of the list of causes of death in the United States and in Manistee County. Bringing continued awareness to the problem that faces the county in regards to this disease is the focus of the hospital’s Fit Kids Program.

“There are a number of identified risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease,” said Batzer. “All but one – genetics – can be controlled by making better choices. Even the genetic component can be minimized by keeping the other risk factors under control. The process of controlling these risk factors has to start with education when kids are young.”

There is a nationwide focus on problems and costs associated with being overweight and/or obese. According to national statistics, 1 out of 3 children are overweight or obese. Being overweight or obese is one risk factor for developing CVD.

It also plays a role in a number of other chronic health issues including Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and depression. Prevention and managing chronic disease are two challenges facing individuals, families and communities today.

“The data collected over the years through the Fit Kids Program are actual measurements, not just self-reported information like much of the adult data that we have available from various sources,” said Batzer. “Having this ‘real’ information allows us to zero in on troubled areas of the county and focus important health resources on addressing the situation in unique ways. In the past five years of the program,we have seen the overall county overweight/obesity rate of the fifth graders we have assessed trending downward.”

Kennedy Elementary School principal Kevin Schmutzler is a big fan of the annual F.I.T. Kids ‘Walk For A Healthy Heart’ event.

“It is a great thing for all our kids to participate in Healthy Active Manistee Week,” he said. “How Dorothy pulls this all together is amazing and it’s great community event. The kids love doing it and they enjoy getting out and walking, so we we are really excited and it is a great way to conclude the school year.”

Schmutzler said the school’s ATP group buys water for all the walkers.

Students found it to be plenty of fun.

“We did a lot of dancing today,” said Kennedy Fifth grade student Anthony Rodrigez.

Fellow Kennedy fifth grader Troy Macurio said it was just a nice day outside to take a walk.

“I like the fact that we get to walk downtown and enjoy our time down here dancing,” he said.

For Kennedy student Ezra Schultz it was an opportunity to spend some time with his classmates.

“I like to be with my friends and walk as it was a lot of fun,” he said.

Samantha Zajac loved the opportunity to get out and move around to the music.

“It was fun because I just love to dance,” she said.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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