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Study: Project Fit producing results

A comparative study of students’ physical capabilities beforeand after the installation of specialized playground equipment onfour area school campuses showed decidedly good results, officialssaid.

Project Fit America recently released the testing results forthe 2006-2007 school year comparing students’ scores when firsttested with those at the end of the year.

The local PFA project was funded through a Blue Cross/BlueShield grant and administered by King’s Daughters Medical Center tobuild four physical fitness playgrounds at Brookhaven ElementarySchool, Lipsey Middle School, Brookhaven Academy and WessonAttendance Center.

The schools comprise one area of only three in the stateutilizing the fitness system. Six schools in the DeSoto CountySchool District and three schools in the Biloxi School District arealso participating in the program.

Site-wide results released for the local area show improvementin all of the areas addressed by the equipment – pull ups, flex armhang, modified pull ups, pole climb and horizontal ladder for upperbody development; vault bar for the lower body; sit ups forabdominal; and a step test and mile run for cardiovasculardevelopment.

The largest improvement in area composite totals was 43.4percent in lower body development from the vault bar while thelowest was a 7.8 percent improvement in the mile run. The study didnot combine the mile run and step test, which showed a 16.2 percentimprovement, to factor a total improvement in cardiovasculardevelopment.

The highest percentage posted among the schools individually wasa 100 percent improvement in 45-degree angle pull ups at Wesson.The worst was the only negative result in any test – a 14.3 percentdecrease in the pole climb at Lipsey.

The program encompasses more than the equipment, however. Schoolcoaches or physical education instructors ensure each student usesthe equipment daily.

“There is a course curriculum for them to use and they receivedspecialized training when the equipment was installed,” said JoAnnaSproles, spokeswoman at KDMC.

Stephen Cooksey, coach at Brookhaven Academy, said while thegoal of coaches is to improve the students’ physical fitness, mostchildren are finding the events fun. He said he usually opens theclass with repetitions on each piece of equipment and then “turnsthem loose” to play on their favorites for the remainder of theclass.

Ron Kessler, coach at Wesson Attendance Center, said theequipment is popular enough that the students continue to use itoutside of physical education classes, most notably during recessand after school.

Jerrold Willis, coach at Brookhaven Elementary School, said theequipment has definitely had an impact on the students’ health.

“Everyone seems to be improving,” he said. “We do have theproblem of obesity. That’s my focus. I plan for and continue tofight this problem.”

Shane Adams, coach at Lipsey Middle School, said the equipmentmet a weakness in the school’s health program and excited thestudents.

“Before the PFA equipment, there wasn’t any type of equipment atthe school,” he said. “Students have become real confident in doingthe stations and other activities. Student attitudes have becomemore positive toward exercising.”

Cooksey said excitement for the equipment has remained high andhelped him in pursuing his goals. Although the equipment locatedthrough the program here was targeted at students in grades threethrough six, students of all ages have been using it.

“I like the program because everything works on core strength,”he said. “Also, all ages are represented.”

Willis said the equipment’s influence ranges beyond the PEclasses, and he has even witnessed adults utilizing it.

“The students’ attitudes are great,” Willis said. “They justhate to hear the talking – it takes away from their time (on theequipment). Neighbors to the school have been using the equipment,too.”

The full scope of the program will not be known until itcompletes its two-year cycle, Sproles said. However, the hospitalhas already begun discussions of possibly expanding PFA to theother campuses based on the recent results.

“At the end of this school year all the results will be reviewedand coaches will be consulted. If it’s as positive as it appears tobe, the project will likely be expanded to other interestedschools,” she said.