Metro Middle School Teaching Kids to be Active for Life

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DES MOINES, Iowa  --  Physical education has changed quite a bit over the years, and it no longer just includes playing dodgeball or attempting pull-ups.

Channel 13's Megan Reuther visited Meredith Middle School to find out how its students are learning to be active for a lifetime.

"We were practicing flexibility to try to reach further than we could reach, like touch our toes," said student Josh Ubabigbo.

These students are doing things like yoga and running around during a game of ping pong in P.E.

"It's bringing in that education part of it. We're not just working out, getting stronger, we're also learning while we're doing it," said Hailee McCormick, another Meredith student.

The program educators are using is called Active for a Lifetime.

"Instead of being traditional, we're trying to think of things, what can they do when they're 60, when they're 40, when they're 30, that they can do now in middle school," said physical education teacher Tara Stemsrud.

The students wear pedometers during gym class, set individual step goals, track activity and healthy habits in a journal, and learn a variety of games.

"We don't teach basketball or volleyball. We do rugby or lacrosse or Gaelic football. Things that kids might experience when they go off to college, or if they decide to travel, or if they turn on the TV," said Stemsrud.

"I think what you're seeing here is a classic example of a shift towards health-related fitness," said Iowa State University kinesiology professor Greg Welk.

Welk works with schools in Des Moines and around the country to see what helps students reach fitness goals.

"Meredith has done a really good job of personalizing fitness education, and so taking the message of what fitness data is and helping kids learn how that relates to their activity behavior and how they change their fitness," he said.

"When they leave these walls, they're going to be active, they're going to be healthy, and they're going to find things they enjoy to do," said Stemsrud.

Students are learning this lesson while still having fun during gym class.

"You can play these games and stay healthy throughout your life," said McCormick.

Welk says the physical education field is moving towards comprehensive school physical activity programming, which means students are staying active throughout the day.