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Students at Johnson Crossing might soon notice increased physical fitness thanks to some new equipment provided by community organizations and a national non-profit.

The Fremont Area Medical Center, Fremont Area Community Foundation, Project Fit America and Fremont Public Schools combined their efforts create innovative Fitness in Education. The project is a continued introduction of Project Fit America’s Official Nebraska State Model and pilot program, which began in 2002.

Project Fit America is a nonprofit organization that builds sustainable physical education programs in schools. Its programming includes state-of-the-art equipment designed to address areas where children fail fitness tests. The program includes curriculum with games, activities and challenges for students using outdoor and indoor equipment, on site teacher training and in class instruction.

During a ribbon cutting ceremony for the equipment Friday, Johnson Crossing Principal Brent Cudly said since the program began in 1990 it has helped more than 800 schools in 300 cities in 40 states become fit and healthy.

Cudly said his school appreciates all the community organizations that came together to provide the fitness opportunities for Johnson Crossing students. The equipment will provide additional activities for students at recess and during PE class.

Chad Radke, principal of Linden Elementary, also received a grant for the Project Fit America equipment and will hold an opening ceremony Oct. 24 at his school.

Radke said the program’s encouragement of physical fitness is significant for young students.

“In this day and age with all the computer and video games, this encourages kids to get active and live a healthy lifestyle,” he said.

Bill Vobejda, vice president of Fremont Area Medical Center, said the hospital is thrilled to provide the opportunity for student fitness. After this year, Fremont Area Medical Center will have sponsored four Project Fit America sites.

“Many people think of the Fremont Area Medical Center as a hospital that only deals with sick people,” he said. “But a big part of our mission deals with health and wellness. That means that we want to keep you out of the hospital, keep you from being sick – so a big part of our work involves keeping you happy, healthy and well.”

Jill Gossett, community health and wellness coordinator at FAMC, said in a statement “this program is part of the long-term commitment we have made to the schools, children and their families.”

Students who are tested before and after participating in the program demonstrate a significant increase in fitness. On average students participating demonstrated a 23 percent increase in upper body strength and a 13 percent increase in abdominal strength.

Research has shown that physical education not only promotes good health, it can play a role in a student’s academic success as well.

“Physically active kids are better learners. Quality Fitness in Education has a direct impact not only a child’s health but their academic success,” Stacey Cook, executive director of Project Fit America, said in a statement. “We applaud Fremont Area Medical Center for taking the leadership role to bring this program to the community. This exemplary partnership demonstrates we can all work together to make a difference to improve the health of children.”

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Statics provided by the Fremont Area Medical Center state:

* The U.S. Surgeon General reports that since 1980 childhood obesity has tripled.

* Health experts have indicated that this may the first generation of children not expected to outlive their parents due to the health problems associated with obesity.

* The government estimates 6 million American children are now overweight enough to endanger their health. An additional 5 million are on the threshold and the problem is growing even more extreme as it becomes more widespread.

* Obesity harms a child by creating adult diseases that are now occurring in childhood such as gallbladder disease, sleep apnea, Type 2 diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome.

* The lack of fitness and health awareness contributes to many problems as cited by classroom teachers. Some examples include: Lack of self-esteem, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior resulting in classroom disruptions/playground fights and experimenting with unsafe diet practices such as fasting, diet pills, purging.

* The Centers for Disease Control states: “Students who earn higher grades are twice as likely to get regular physical activity as compared to students who earn low grades. Seventy-six percent of students who receive mostly D’s and F’s are not physically active on a regular basis.”

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