University of Calgary

Moving beyond gym class

UToday HomeDecember 12, 2012

PACK helps children explore activity outside of gym class.PACK helps children explore activity outside of gym class. Photo by Riley BrandtAn innovative partnership between the University of Calgary, Cardel Place and the Calgary Foundation aims to educate children about exercise and motivate them to get moving.

The Physical Activity Challenge for Kids (PACK) is a pilot program launched at St. Elizabeth Seton school and designed to help children explore the concept of being more active outside of gym class. The 30-day challenge is based on the research of kinesiology researcher Larry Katz, who uses tools and technology to make children aware of their activity level and to motivate them to do more.

“We live in an age where kids are almost never told to just ‘get outside and play,’ ” says Katz.

“As a result, exercise has become a structured activity that you do at school with gym teachers or sports teams. This challenge was created to try to change kids’ attitudes towards exercise, and to get them thinking about being more active at home, at recess and even when they’re in the classroom.”

Classes of Grade 4 children at St. Elizabeth Seton were taught about the many ways they could be active, including what light, moderate or vigorous exercise feels like. They were given log sheets and pedometers to track their activity. Rotating team leaders coordinated the recording of activities daily on a computer tablet to give the classes a snap-shot of their weekly activity levels.

Cardel Place chose to partner with the University of Calgary as part of their Raise the Bar for Healthier Generations mission.

”It was a natural fit for us,” says Graham Thomson, manager of child and youth programs at Cardel Place.

“We came to Larry Katz with the idea of creating a challenge program, and we liked his approach for getting kids to think about physical activity as something you should do all the time, not just at gym time. Whether you’re at home, at school, at a neighbourhood park, or a public recreation centre, it’s important to build active play into every day. It doesn’t matter where you’re active, it just matters that you’re active,” says Thomson.

The University of Calgary, Cardel Place and the Calgary Foundation are sharing the cost of the PACK program. Cardel Place is also providing an activity day for the participating classes at the conclusion of the program.