, Salem, MA


December 17, 2013

Step It Up program a success for local fifth graders

There are no couch potatoes among the fifth graders who recently took part in the four-week Step It Up program, presented by the YMCA of the North Shore.

The goal was to create healthier lifestyles for the youngsters and fight childhood obesity through activity designed to make them aware of the value of exercise.

It kicked off with the YMCA presenting pedometers and T-shirts to all participants from the 15 schools in Beverly, Salem, Cape Ann, Ipswich, Marblehead and Haverhill which took part in this program, which was developed by Charity Lezama, Teen and Aquatics Director of the Salem YMCA.

“We started it back in 2009,” said Lezama. “It targets fifth graders, kids at an age where studies show physical activity tends to taper off, and when healthy habits are best established.

“The Y wants to show kids that physical activity can be just as much fun as playing video games or sitting at the computer. It’s also good for their health.”

All five Beverly elementary schools participated, while the Bentley School in Salem also took part.

The Marblehead Charter School finished the four-week program with 12,056,959 total steps taken. For the Winthrop School in Ipswich, their total was 11,871,598 steps.

Lezama said the program was a great success. Weekly fun facts and family challenges were added to extend Step It Up into the homes and get family members involved.

“The Y initiative is to ensure health and wellness are an integral part of students’ days both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Pam Sullivan, Communications Specialist for the Y. “Once a school signs on to participate, physical education and classroom teachers work together with the Y. We provide materials including letters to parents describing the program, step tracking cards for each student, and T-shirts and pedometers.”

Lezama hopes that next year even more schools will partner with the YMCA of the North Shore to expand the program. The classrooms that had the most steps taken were declared healthiest in their city or town.

“The Step It Up program can be a great kick start to increasing a child’s activity level, as well as their families’,” said Lezama. “While tracking their steps, each child begins to think in a new way regarding activities and errands around town.”

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