Expert Edge

Support area schools

This fall, feature your fitness facility as the leader for a healthier, more physically fit community! Your facility can become involved with area schools, educating teachers, parents and children on the importance of healthy eating and participation in an active lifestyle. A small investment of your time can pay big dividends in increased family memberships at your facility. If schools trust your facility, they will route flyers about your club's events and kid's fitness programs to the students' homes. Therefore, during the next school year, earn a reputation as the premier facility for families to join!

Adopt-a-School
Childhood obesity affects one in every five children. Have a club representative meet with school nurses and volunteer your services. Nurses will be pleasantly surprised when you offer to assemble information that will give kids ideas on how their families can be physically active together. If the school participates in Jump Rope for Heart, have volunteers from your facility attend an event to motivate students. Write an article about healthy and nutritional snacks and lunches for a school's PTA newsletter. Assist the PTA with planning a school health fair. Even offer on-site aerobic classes for teachers and school personnel!

Promote National Observances of Fitness and Health
* Family Health and Fitness Days are Sept. 23-24, 2000; www.fitnessday.com

* Girls and Women in Sports Day is Feb. 7, 2001; www.womenssportsfoundation.org

* National Nutrition Month takes place in March 2001; www.eatright.org

* Physical Fitness and Sports Month takes place in May 2001; www.indiana.edu/~preschal

Use these Web sites to assist with planning your local events. Work with your marketing department to take a fresh look at how your facility can position itself to be the leader in promoting healthy families in your community. Involve school physical education instructors in planning fun, educational activities that children and families can participate in to celebrate these events. Host some of the events at the school and others at your fitness facility.

Alert the Media
An excellent way to attract local news media to your facility is to involve children! The media is well aware of the relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and heart disease. By hosting an event, you'll highlight that your facility is recognizing a national health and fitness day, which will naturally attract media coverage of the event.

Show Your Support to Local Schools
When members of your staff travel to area schools, be sure they "follow the rules" on how to sign in as a visitor on the campus. Have your staff wear a name tag and club shirt when working at schools. Parents and children will soon recognize and feel comfortable with your staff. To attract additional family memberships to your facility, become involved with community schools. A parent will feel comfortable sending a child to a winter vacation camp or after-school program at your facility if she appreciates your genuine desire and efforts to make her kid healthy.

Challenge your staff to get kids and families on the road to health and fitness in your community!

--Liz Price, M.S., E.D., is president of Energized by Exercise Inc. She provides children's fitness programs to facilities. Price can be contacted at www.cyn.com/fitkids.

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