FitSmart Scores a Big Goal
(from the Gloucester County Times)
By Jessica Beym
August 30, 2010 - WASHINGTON TWP. - Eight weeks of learning about nutrition, better eating habits and exercise routines culminated this week for a group of kids when Philadelphia Flyers right-winger Ian Laperriere joined them for their final workout.
As the five kids gathered around in a semi-circle of chairs in a conference room at Virtua's Health and Wellness Center, they sat in awe as the Montreal native Laperriere told them about his fitness routine and favorite foods.
"I love pasta," he told the kids. "But I try to eat a little pasta with chicken before I work out. And I eat often but smaller meals."
And even on days when the 200-pound, 6-foot, 1-inch player doesn't work out, he spends time stretching in the morning just to limber up, he told them.
"It was my dream to play hockey since I was a little boy, so I'm lucky to do that," he said.
The hour-long session was not only exciting for the kids Ð and fans Ð but it was motivational.
The FitSmart for Kids program is comprehensive, explained Paul Konstantinides, executive director of the Center for Health Fitness at Virtua. It started with fitness assessments of each of the kids, doing activities like sit-ups, jumping rope or walking.
Weekly sessions included workouts with a fitness trainer, nutrition lessons and a behavior-lifestyle component.
Only about seven kids enrolled in this class, which was a good number to keep the groups focused, Konstantinides said. Parents were also required to come so they could learn the same thing as their children and encourage the behavior outside of class.
"It needs to be followed through at home," Konstantinides said. "We're trying to teach a lifestyle."
Konstantinides said she saw "marked" improvement in the participants at the end of the eight weeks. While weight loss wasn't necessarily a goal, being able to do more sit-ups or walk a mile in a shorter time were also signs of success.
"It's incremental," she said.
Liz Hefchek watched her daughter Rebecca, 10, grinning ear-to-ear as she stretched alongside Laperriere.
"I think it's great," the Gloucester Township mom said. "She's doing the exercises and she seemed to learn a lot. She needs the motivation."