Academy for the Blind program encourages fitness, fun

pramati@macon.comMarch 19, 2014 

A new fitness program launched at the Georgia Academy for the Blind has been designed to show the school’s students that anyone can take part in some physical activity.

Principal Cindy Gibson told students during a Wednesday morning assembly at the school that even just raising their arms above the head can be an activity to help students’ health.

“Thirty minutes of exercise helps your heart stay healthy, your brain stay healthy,” she told the students. “You eat every day, don’t you? You don’t think about it. You just do it.”

Gibson said students can take the same approach to exercise. She then led the students in their own version of flapping their arms like chicken wings, asking them to do it for one minute every hour.

Teresa Yaughn, the school’s physical therapist, is coordinating the “Power Up For 30” program at the school. She said that while some of the students do take part in sports such as wrestling and track or do exercise programs like Zumba or work out in the weight room, the goal is to get the entire student body -- as well as faculty and staff -- involved with some sort of fun physical activity.

“The main purpose is to get 30 minutes of exercise or activity in each person’s day,” she said. “It will improve their health while having fun.”

The school played a homemade video of students, faculty and staff doing their own improvised moves to music as a way to inspire the students, most of whom danced along when it was shown during the assembly. After the assembly was over, the students walked around part of the campus to a table, where they were given a healthy snack.

Yaughn said most of the students spend a lot of time in sedentary positions, either sitting in class or in the cabins on campus where they stay during the week if they are from outside of the midstate. Other students at the school are in wheelchairs.

Still, she said, there are activities called “desk-ercises” that they can do to keep active. Gibson added that the school has chair exercises for some of the students.

“We’re going to teach the students who can’t stand and jump that they can still raise their elbows above their heads,” she said.

“The teachers are encouraged to use three minutes per period for exercise each period during the day,” she said. “It’s shown that exercise can help test scores go up.”

Sarah Pergola, a senior at the school, said she is looking forward to participating.

“I think it’s a good program,” she said. “It will get the students involved with exercise and get more healthy. I think anyone can do it -- you are in charge of you.”

Yaughn said the school has explored instituting the program for several months. The state Department of Education got so excited at the prospect that it’s initiating similar programs in the other two state-run schools in Georgia.

Also Wednesday, the school started teaching students about the state’s Safe Routes To School program. It’s a state Department of Transportation program that encourages all kids to follow certain safety rules while walking or riding their bikes to school.

While the students at the academy don’t walk to school or ride bikes, Yaughn said there are other parts of the program that they can teach students. In addition, the state gave each student a pedometer as part of the program.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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