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Parents work out with kids – at school

Kyle Stielow was forever looking to find a little time during the day when her kids weren’t around that she could get in some exercise.

Then it hit her: Wouldn’t it be great if she could exercise with her kids so she could model healthy physical activity for them – and encourage them to do the same?

That’s where the idea for Wednesday Morning Workout at Elk Creek Elementary School in Conifer originated. Stielow is president of the school’s PTA. With help from a small stipend from the Mountain Resource Center, the school began inviting parents who were dropping off their kids in the morning to stick around awhile and engage in a half-hour family workout before classes began at 9 a.m.

Mountain cold discouraged outdoor exercise

They began in October by walking the baseball field on Wednesday mornings. Almost no one came.

“It’s chilly up here,” Stielow acknowledged. “I asked the other moms why they weren’t coming, and they said because it’s cold. So we moved it inside.”

Then they discovered another problem: Wednesday morning conflicted with a Jazzercise class that a lot of the school moms liked to attend. So Stielow started strategizing with Marsha Wheatcraft, health and wellness coordinator for the resource center. What if they could have a Jazzercise class in the school gym?

Aimee Pless, the local Jazzercise instructor, agreed to come on Thursday mornings for a month, and longer if the class proved popular.

On Thursday, the first Elk Creek Jazzercise class attracted five parents – including four who had never participated before – and 10 kids from six families. The class was free for anyone wanting to participate.

“It was a great success,” said a beaming Stielow. “We did a half hour of Jazzercise. The kids lasted about 20 minutes, and the moms loved it. A couple of the moms said it was the perfect time for them. Afterward, we had healthy snacks –  clementines and bananas and whole wheat bagels.”

Next: drumming, soccer, Zumba

Stielow wants to create a variety of classes to interest new people and keep folks coming back. In January, she has recruited a dad who is a Drums Alive instructor to teach four weeks of that activity, which blends drumming and aerobic dance. Then it’s back to Jazzercise in February, soccer scrimmages (kids vs. parents) in March and Zumba in April.

“We have a dad who owns a karate dojo,” Stielow said. “He may be interested in coming. Basically, I’m just looking for fun, exciting ideas to pull people in.”

Wheatcraft says that important as it is to introduce more physical activity into schools to get kids moving, engaging parents in the process is ultimately the key.

“Bottom line – it’s parents who are going to change things,” she said. “Whether it be making meals at home healthier or advocating for healthier meals at school or advocating more exercise time – it will come down to the parents leading the children and the schools into those health and wellness practices.”

And if the soccer idea in March works out, who knows where that could lead, Wheatcraft said.

“We’re thinking long-term,” she said. “Maybe the parents could form their own soccer league…”