Anschutz Sports Pavilion on the University of Kansas campus was bursting with energy last Friday morning as 620 third-graders from Northeast Kansas filled it as part of Kansas Kids Fitness and Safety Day in Douglas County.
An especially impressive feat this year was the fact that students from three Lawrence elementary schools – Cordley, Hillcrest and Schwegler – all walked to the event from their respective school. This annual event in Lawrence is coordinated by Safe Kids Douglas County.
The Governor’s Council on Fitness, Safe Kids Kansas and American Family Insurance sponsor this statewide event each year to reinforce the fun and health benefits of noncompetitive physical activities and injury prevention. The students attending on the KU campus were part of nearly 20,000 students participating this year at more than 30 sites across the state.
Students started the activity day with a brief tour of the Booth Hall of Athletics and Allen Fieldhouse to stretch their legs. When they arrived in Anschutz, they did some more stretching exercises and calisthenics led by Don “Red Dog” Gardner who routinely gives community members of all ages a workout as part of his Red Dog Days program. The students then maneuvered through one of two activity courses. Each course featured 10 separate activity stations that promoted physical activity and safety. The stations were staffed by volunteers from the Safe Kids Douglas County coalition, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire & Medical, Douglas County CHIP, Jayhawk Tennis Center, Lawrence Parks & Recreation, Watkins Student Health Center as well as the community and KU students. The KU Athletics Department has partnered to provide the host venue every year.
Kansas Kids Fitness & Safety Day provides an opportunity to impress upon youth the importance of being safe and physically active. A 2008 report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than one-third of children and adolescents were either overweight or obese and physical inactivity was a major contributor to this problem. According to the CDC report, 70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease in a population based sample of 5 to 17 year olds. A 2004 study conducted by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment found that 16.7 percent of study participants in kindergarten through fifth grade, and 14.6 percent of study participants in sixth through eighth grade were obese (Kansas Child Health Assessment and Monitoring Project 2004). At the same time, only 39.9 percent of study participants in kindergarten through fifth grade and 34.8 percent of study participants in sixth through eighth grade participated in the recommended amount of physical activity (60 minutes/day for 7 days per week).