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Patrick Springer, Published September 13 2012

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota sponsors program for kids

FARGO – Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota wants to start a fitness movement among children in elementary school classrooms across the state.

The initiative, announced Thursday, is called Recess YES! and it aims to increase levels of physical activity to combat childhood obesity, which affects one child in four.

“It’s a fun thing that’s based in a serious purpose,” said Paul von Ebers, chief executive officer of Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

The health insurer has sent out packets to 4,600 teachers around the state with pointers, including “brain breaks,” to help turn sedentary learning into a more active pursuit.

Some school districts have been forced to reduce time for recess or physical fitness, von Ebers said.

Also, he noted, children today spend much of their leisure time in front of an electronic screen, watching television or playing video games, instead of in active play outdoors.

As a result of trends like those, childhood obesity rates for the nation have tripled over the past 30 years, von Ebers said.

The teacher’s kit includes “10 easy ways to add physical activity to your classroom,” including “mobile math” and “Q and A stretching.”

Activities are intended for kindergarten through fifth grade. Suggested activity times include the start or end of the school day, at school assemblies and in music classes.

Blue Cross Blue Shield also produced a music video with a vigorous dance beat, filmed on a playground, in an effort to help motivate kids to get on the move.

Liz Johnson, a second-grade teacher at Horace Mann Elementary School in Fargo, has used the activity tips in her classroom.

She first used the activities for her summer school classroom. She uses them in transitions between one subject to another, taking an activity pause between reading and writing, for example.

“I think a classroom that’s got movement in it has movement in its thinking, too,” she said.

Horace Mann Principal Kim Colwell supports recess and gym class, and neither has been shortened, Johnson said, adding he sometimes joins older kids in playing ball outside.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota will expand its fitness and wellness initiative, but decided to start with children, von Ebers said. The health insurer touts itself as “The Official Sponsor of Recess.”

“We’d like people to start thinking about recess as something they do for themselves – a treat, a break,” von Ebers said.

The response from teachers has been “overwhelmingly positive,” said Najla Amundson, public relations manager for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota.

The tips for teachers, which also can be used by day care centers or other groups, are available online at RecessYES.com. Online materials include the video.


For more information on the program, go to: RecessYES.com

Readers can reach Forum reporter Patrick Springer at (701) 241-5522

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