By Edith Torres….
With both the House and Senate passing resolutions declaring September as “National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month,” and joining in First Lady Michelle Obama’s national “Let’s Move” campaign promoting health and wellness particularly in the nation’s youth, Miami-Dade Parks is joining the movement and spearheading the initiative locally with its Fit-to-Play: Health, Wellness and Obesity Prevention Out-of-School program.
Fit-to-Play is an evidence-based fitness and wellness program for children ages 6-14 that incorporates physical activity with interactive learning designed to assist children in developing healthy lifestyles and good citizenship.
Each day’s session begins with homework help, followed by SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) an evidenced-based, outcome-oriented active recreation component of the Out-of School program. SPARK is dedicated to improving the quantity and quality of physical activity for children, focusing on activities that develop and improve motor skills, movement knowledge, and social and personal skills.
With parental permission, Miami-Dade Parks will track key health indicators in children, such as blood pressure and Body Mass Index (BMI), assisting parents and children in making the correct decisions about their fitness and nutrition. Upon completion of the programs, participants will be able to know their fitness improvements, which will be measured throughout the year.
The Fit-to-Play Out-of-School Program also includes lifelong sports, team sports, nutrition education, wellness activities, enrichment activities, cultural arts, nature and science programming.
After three successful years of partnership with the Fit-to-Play summer camp program, Miami-Dade Parks also has entered into a partnership for its Fit-to-Play Out-of-School program with the University of Miami UHealth System. UHealth will provide oversight of the department’s health, wellness and obesity prevention initiatives, including providing hundreds of children with health and wellness information, as well as stress management, safety, BMI (Body Mass Index) testing, nutrition, and more.
“Miami-Dade Parks has always been a leader in recognizing the importance of educating children in health and wellness, which is why it first began its Fit-to-Play, Fun-for-Life summer camp program five years ago,” said Jack Kardys, director of Miami-Dade Parks.
“We are excited that after five years we continue that leadership with both our summer camp and out-of-school program, providing children with an opportunity to live a healthy lifestyle year round, when so many of our children aren’t exposed to the outdoors and to physical activities,” he added. “We are also very fortunate to be partnering with the University of Miami adding the enhanced health testing and education components to this program.”
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) also is encouraging park systems across the country to take the initiative locally in the First Lady’s obesity prevention campaign. During a time when so many park systems are experiencing cuts in funding, it is crucial for parks to become the leaders locally in the nation’s fight against obesity and to focus instead on living a healthy lifestyle.
Miami-Dade Parks’ Fit-to-Play: Health, Wellness and Obesity Prevention Out-of-School Programs operate Monday through Friday, from 2 to 6 p.m., through June 10, 2011, at several sites. Transportation is available to pick up the children at certain nearby schools and transport them back to the program, for an additional charge, and at select park sites only.
Registration is open for all Miami-Dade Parks Out-of-School programs and there is no deadline to register, but parents are encouraged to register early before programs fill to capacity. Affordable prices vary per park and parents must register directly with the individual park.
For information, visit the Miami-Dade Park and Recreation website at www.miamidade.gov/parks or call 311.
By Edith Torres….