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Students Pumped Up Over Fitness Rooms

Stairmasters and bicep curls are not just for adults anymore. Some schools have opened fitness rooms where students exercise and track their progress. Students enthusiasm is drawing in parents and community members as well. Included: Descriptions of two fitness rooms.

Circuit training for second graders? Treadmills for tweens? Not as far-fetched as one might think. Some schools have found that bringing in quality fitness equipment and integrating cardio and circuit training into physical education classes can get youngsters excited about working out.

We have lines behind each machine, said Sunray (Florida) Elementary School coach Scott Carlson, who oversees the schools fitness room. They [students] are so enthusiastic. They get off the bus and say, I have fitness lab today! That makes my day.


The creation of school fitness rooms goes along with the new approach to PE; classes now emphasize activities and skills students can use to maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout their lives.

Sunray principal Lee-Anne Yerkey and Carlson thought a fitness room might generate more student interest in exercise. The community has a high obesity rate, Carlson said, and the school only has a small playground. We wanted to do something to motivate them, Yerkey added. Many dont understand how to go out and play with other children.

Florida requires 151 minutes of physical education every week for elementary students, and Yerkey wanted to have a viable alternative for exercise if students were not able to go outside. Sunray does have ten minutes of recess daily and the school staff provides hula hoops, balls, and other equipment for students to use. Thats the time to get the wiggles and giggles out, Yerkey noted.


In the fitness room, though, its all business. Students have been using the fitness equipment as part of PE since the room opened in August 2009; much of the equipment was donated. The fitness program has 24 circuits and at each station there is a picture of Carlson doing the activity, such as push ups and bicep curls. Before classes started, Carlson reviewed the fitness room rules with students, which include putting back equipment after it is used.

Click here to see a video of the Sunray Elementary School fitness room.

If students complete at least half the circuits, they can use cardio equipment, such as treadmills, cross trainers, or stationary bicycles.

Kindergarten through second graders exercise their upper and lower bodies and their cores while listening to music. When the music stops, students rotate to another station. They have one minute to rest between activities.

Third- to fifth-graders do circuit training, work out with weights, and do 20 minutes of cardio exercises. The weights vary in size from two to eight pounds. Carlson plays the soundtrack from the movie Rocky while the older students are stretching and working out. All students are responsible for keeping fitness logs to record their progress.

I challenge them, play music, and they compete against each other, Carlson said. They can see the benefits. You see young kids with weights and its very similar to adult programs. Students often come up to her to show off their muscles, Yerkey joked.

They get off the bus and say, I have fitness lab today! That makes my day.

Carlson also has incorporated the Presidents Challenge Physical Activity and Fitness Awards program into the curriculum.

Workouts also have built collaboration skills, because every student is required to have a spotter or workout partner. Kids are working with students they didnt know before, Carlson noted.

I compliment them when I visit the lab, and see kids helping each other, not making fun of each other, Yerkey told Education World. Ive seen more cooperation and collaboration among kids. Ive also seen a tremendous growth in kids in terms of responsibility. They are getting their energy out in good ways.


Some schools have opened their fitness rooms not just to staff members but the community as well. Chief Kanim Middle School in Snoqualmie, Washington, opened a fitness center in 1999 in a room adjacent to the gym, but the donated equipment always was breaking down, according to principal Kirk Dunckel. So he decided to find a way to invest in new equipment and sell memberships to the fitness center to pay for it.

Now that the kids have been exposed to it [this type of exercise], they can continue the habits as adults.

The board of education loaned the school $70,000, and school personnel bought stair steppers, elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, and cardio stations, as well as some televisions, a music system, fans, and mirrors. Now the fitness room has about 200 members who pay $25 per month to work out. The center is open 30 hours a week to the community, including before and after school and weekends. Weve paid off the loan and have money in reserve, said Dunckel. Were in a pretty small town and there are no other fitness centers competing with us -- since were the only game in town, it worked out well. The school also has hired one community member and several high school students to work in the fitness room when it is open to the public.

The schools PE faculty does a good job of supervising the fitness room, Dunckel added, and students and community members must sign a form indicating theyve been trained to use the equipment.

PE classes use the fitness equipment mostly in the fall and winter, Dunckel told Education World. Students take about 24 minutes to complete a circuit that includes weight and cardio work. We have a good variety of equipment and its high-quality, he said. Kids like that they can be on a treadmill or on a bike next to a friend.


Administrators at both Sunray and Chief Kanim are seeing students enthusiasm for exercise spread to parents and teachers.

After some students talked to their parents about the fitness room at Chief Kanim, their parents bought memberships so they could work out as a family. Now that the kids have been exposed to it [this type of exercise], they can continue the habits as adults, Dunckel noted.

Yerkey also wants to keep the fitness momentum going. She and Carlson are committed to seeking grants for fitness equipment and training and would like to expand the schools playground offerings. Some Sunray students have shown their parents their exercises and reported that their parents bought them dumbbells to use at home. As for staff members, they are free to use the equipment after school and participate in an afterschool aerobics class. We want to provide a healthy lifestyle for the whole campus, Yerkey added.



PE and Health Center
Physical Education


Article by Gary Hopkins
Education World®
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Updated 06/17/2015