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    (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    The bootcamp is fast and furious, with students bouncing from one exercise to another. Melanie Gauthier does a Tricep Press, while, in the background, Cohen Savoie holds the Plank Pose. They will soon switch around. (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)

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    (Photo by Patricia Leboeuf, Petawawa Post)



Fit Kids program returns to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School

Community News

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2016

In a world of growing childhood obesity and related diseases, one elementary school is fighting back.

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School has instituted the Fit Kids Program, which gives Grade 6-7 students about an hour of physical training every school day. Under the eye of teacher and certified Yoga instructor, personal trainer and spin instructor Lesley Peplinskie, these kids tackle different type of exercises such as bootcamp, hikes and jogging, bike rides, yoga and mindfulness meditation and learn about healthy food habits; all in conjunction with the regular physical education program as per the Ontario Ministry of Education.

“As a result, the students are much more settled and prepared to learn for the remainder of the day,” said Peplinskie. “They are calmer. Even more importantly as a result of this program, I see happy kids.”

Countless studies have confirmed that children who are active do better in school. Principal John Leitch has also seen the benefits of this five-year-old program firsthand. Students are less anxious, do better academically, have less performance anxiety around tests and presentations and are friendlier with each other.

“Our discipline in the yard has gone down, their attention in class has gone up,” said Leitch. “Their academics have gone up. The relationship between the teacher and the student is much, much better.”

Working out to this extent can be difficult, particularly at the start. Yet Grade 6 student Ayden Muise upholds that it gets better as the year goes on. Students improve, gain strength and see actual results from their progress. He appreciates the fact that this arduous workout helps him get in shape at a younger age. And just as the principle predicted, it has a positive impact on he and his friends’ schoolwork and social skills as well.

“We are more relaxed at the end,” said Muise.

According to Peplinskie, consistency is the key to this mental, academic and physical growth, as is making them work hard. One of their goals in each session is to break a sweat.

The mindfulness aspect is also one that is cherished by the students.

Taking a few minutes each day to focus on breathing and rest their brains “encourages the kids to calm their minds as they are learning how to begin to block out repetitive thoughts, and to be more present in the moment,” said Peplinskie.

Even after the students have left the school, she keeps in contact with them as it motivates her to see that they have kept abreast of their workout goals.

The program is such an effective fitness system that a handful of Bishop Smith Catholic High School students are still drawn to it.

“I wouldn’t be running or working out if it wasn’t for being in this class,” said Harmony Stamplecoski. “This class and Mrs. P taught me the importance for that.”

Tristan Stevens, 15, was in agreement. In his experience, this type of hard-core workout keeps him fit and encourages him to be healthier overall, making good choices now that will affect him when he gets older.

“You get in the habit of it, and you get into a fit lifestyle,” said Stevens.

The program brings the kids outside of the school, onto running trails and also in the Petawawa Civic Centre, an integral partnership that provides the room and the equipment to the school.

“The bootcamp workouts wouldn’t be possible without the support of the Civic Centre,” said Peplinskie. “Those guys have been fantastic.”

Leitch also hopes to expand the program, bringing exercise machines into the school. In times where the students cannot go to the Civic Centre to work out, or they are facing inclement weather, these machines could be used.

“All of the research is indicating that exercise is more and more important,” said the principal.