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Lolo School students do laps as part of fitness program
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Lolo School students do laps as part of fitness program

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LOLO – Running wasn’t advised because of the smoky air Monday, but nobody called off skipping by the kindergarten through fourth-graders who joined in the first day of Lolo School’s Feelin’ Good Mileage Club.

Walking fast and skipping boldly, the school’s youngest students launched the fall exercise program, which will continue every day for the next three weeks.

“We have fun, but here we are active for a reason,” said Dale Olinger, Lolo’s elementary school principal.

Given the nation’s disturbing statistics about increased obesity among schoolchildren, Lolo School is determined to fight back and get fit.

“We want our children to be healthy,” Olinger said. “We want exercise to become habit forming.”

“Not only is this a fitness incentive program, we have fewer behavioral incidences outside because of this program,” said Jeannie Bates, the school’s K-6 physical education teacher. “The kids do better because of it; they do better socially and they do better academically.

“It really improves wellness in all areas.”

For the past 12 years, Bates has promoted this fitness program in the school by inspiring her students to lap the school grounds during lunch recess.

School parents help bring fun to the outdoor exercise by clicking each student’s punch card every time they make a lap.

Bates offers small prizes for children who get all of the tiny 20 feet on the cards punched, and by having a theme for each Mileage Club.

At the program’s end, top walkers/runners from each grade receive a Feelin’ Good Mileage T-shirt, and a sneaker trophy is awarded to the class in each grade level that walks the most miles.

On Monday, the inaugural outing for the 2012-13 year, Superintendent Mike Magone joined the walk with his cheerful golden retriever Meggie.

In coming days, expect the school to be walking backward, carrying stuffed animals and dressing in silly hats as they make their rounds.

Each lap is about one-quarter mile, and many of the kids get four or five laps in by the time the classroom bell rings and calls them back indoors.

It’s a voluntary program, but because its social and because it’s OK to run, walk – or skip – the children embrace it as fun, not work.

“It’s really good for you and it makes you really healthy,” said 9-year-old Mackenzie Wright, who was making the laps with friends Mackaela Hawthorne and Gennessa Morris.

“I like it because we get some exercise and we get to hang out with friends,” Morris said.

Teachers like it, too, said Carol O’Neill, a Lolo second-grade teacher.

Not only is it a nice break in the day, but it is an opportunity to squeeze in a little more exercise.

“I like it because it gets me out walking on a more regular basis,” O’Neill said. “And I think it makes a difference in the classroom.

“By the time we get the kids back, they’ve got the wiggles out and they are more alert and more focused.”

Reporter Betsy Cohen can be reached at 523-5253 or at bcohen@missoulian.com.

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