Aiken Students Influence The Nation's Fitness

August 24, 2005
Picture your high school gym class. Now think of who was running the track and who was walking in the back. Often, it’s teenage girls who detest fitness. But a University of South Carolina study finds there are ways to change that. Three of the school in their study were in Aiken County. News 12 is on your side with how their participation is now encouraging a lifetime of activity.

P.E. for many girls is a stretch.

“Do I like P.E. class? It depends on the day,” said 9th grader Amanda Kitchings.

“Sort of, it can be a little boring at times,” said 9th grader Cassie McRee.

“Often those early physical activity experiences are not as positive for girls as we think they should be,” said Dr. Russ Pate, USC Public Health.

Researchers at the University of South Carolina studied what helps girls enjoy exercise through a program called “Leap.” Twenty-four schools participated for four years. In Aiken County, South Aiken and Silver Bluff High Schools regular P.E. classes were studied. Aiken High tried the Leap program.

“More of a way of life as opposed to just a P.E. class,” said Barbara Garlinger, P.E. teacher.

Coach Barbara Garlinger says Leap completely changed how she teaches.

“I’ve carried over a lot of things in my classes,” Garlinger said. “A big part of this program was teaching girls to exercise in real life and that sometimes meant leaving the school gym. They did things like take walks in nearby neighborhoods.”

And girls also visited health clubs and learned how their teachers continue to exercise as adults.

The study found girls in Leap work out more than girls in traditional P.E., and are more likely to exercise later in life. Now, as the nation applies the study’s findings, Aiken High hopes to get more girls on the go.

The study ended at Aiken High School three years ago. All the students who participated have since graduated.

There are plenty of places in Augusta where you can improve your fitness level. The newly renovated YMCA on Wheeler Road has a variety of aerobics and yoga classes, including a “Kardio Kidz” class and a “Kids Yoga” class for the youngsters. There’s also a “Teenfit” personal training program, at all of the local branches. Women and girls can also visit “Curves International,” a fitness center that offers a 30-minute workout for women on the go. Visit the YMCA’s website and Curves’ website to learn more about their programs.

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