ORLANDO - Research proves that students who exercise regularly often get better grades than those who don’t. A 2008 study from the American College of Sports Medicine, for instance, found that middle school students who performed the best academically also performed the best on fitness tests. There have been many more studies conducted since then with similar findings.
The data from them all has influenced academic administrators across the country to increase and enhance the physical education programs offered to students. One nearby school that has taken the research seriously is Kissimmee’s Pleasant Hill Elementary School.
Principal Shelby Pagan and the rest of the school’s staff have gone to great lengths to encourage their students to exercise frequently and eat nutritious meals. Participating in the MAGIC Fit four-week challenge was one method they used to keep them on the right track.
The program, created by the Orlando Magic’s strength and conditioning staff to improve the knowledge of healthy food choices and fitness exercises among at-risk children within Orange, Seminole, and Osceola counties, gave Pleasant Hill Elementary School’s students an easy-to-follow curriculum that was both fun and motivating.
The entire student body completed the challenge, and after a random drawing among all the schools with a 100 percent participation rate, they were selected the grand prize winners for a MAGIC Fit Fun Day. That took place Friday, March 25 on the school’s campus and featured dance lessons from the Magic’s 407 team, skills & drills run by Community Ambassadors Bo Outlaw and Nick Anderson, and health and wellness tips from AdventHealth.
“It’s an incredible experience for them because it’s an opportunity that they would not have otherwise,” Pagan said. “We’re really excited to promote the whole child – academic learning, their physical (health), and their social and emotional well-being. So, this kind of wraps (it all) up and shows that every part of them is important.
I am so proud of them each and every day because I know that every day when they arrive here they come to do their very best in all that they do, and they strive to get better every day, and this is an example of them striving to be better every day in both the academics and in their fitness.”
This year, 10,769 students across 14 different schools in Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties took part in the four-week challenge. Over eight million minutes of exercise were logged, with seven of the schools achieving 100 percent participation.
“It’s great, and what’s more important than that is the message that you send – when you are talking about being healthy, eating the right things, getting sleep,” Anderson said. “The kids should understand and know that’s the way to go – staying healthy as you get older. I go back and think about my days growing up. I wish I had something like this. I hope the kids really take this in and listen to some of the good ways to get healthy and stay healthy.”
Health and wellness is one of the Magic’s community focus areas, with the others being housing/homelessness, education, and the arts. With it being NBA Fit Week, the Magic hope to encourage as many children as possible to exercise, eat well, and take care of their minds and bodies.
NBA FIT is a comprehensive health and wellness platform promoting healthy, active lifestyles for children and adults. The NBA FIT initiative encourages physical activity and healthy living for children and families.
“It’s been tremendous – what they’ve (the Magic) done in the community,” Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley said. “When you talk about not just the OMYF (Orlando Magic Youth Foundation), (and) the reaching out for the giving back, but all of these situations that the Magic are involved in are so great. And it’s so wonderful that they are getting in the community for the team fit, which is a great thing for this organization as well as the community.”