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Walking program aimed at students' future fitness

A new walking program at Somerset High School is trying to teach students the importance of getting a good start toward a lifetime of fitness.

This is an age where students are spending more time sitting at a computer and less time being active. The walking program is an effort to get kids active and recognize that they need to remain active to improve their odds of having healthy lives.

Last week was the first week of the new program. There are two sessions of walking, held in conjunction with the two lunch periods. There have been 25 to 35 students participating in the each of the sessions of the walking program during the first week.

In the first three days of the program, the students collectively totaled more than 20 miles of walking. High School health care provider Patty Schachtner said her goal is to have students total more than 1,000 miles during the school year.

The students are currently doing their walking by making laps inside the High School gym. Schachtner said she hoped that in the spring they might be able to move the program out to the High School track.

Students measure their walking distance by using pedometers. The High School has 300 pedometers available. Half came from a donation from the SHS Class of 2008 and the other half came from a donation from the Somerset Partners In Education (P.I.E.) group.

The walking has been designed to be multi-generational. Adults have been invited in to walk with the students in the gym. Any adults interested in walking with the students from 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. should contact Schachtner at 247-3355.

Schachtner said different options will be tried to entice students to get involved in the walking program. This week, they began piping music into the gym while the students were walking.

Another plan is to monitor the grade point average of students who are consistently involved in the walking program.

"Studies show exercise before class increases focus," Schachtner said.

The High School received a Governor's School Health Silver Award last year. Schachtner and High School Principal Shawn Madden said they hope to receive a gold level honor this year.

Role model inspires student walkers

The walking program at the High School has an ideal role model for the students.

Virginia Belisle, 85, is one of the adults walking every day with the students. Seeing Belisle walking around Somerset is nothing new.

She's never had a driver's license and she's walked everywhere around town since she moved to Somerset in 1951.

You'd never guess Belisle is 85, but walking, along with a healthy diet, has kept her active and vital.

Belisle now lives at Countryside Apartments. She still walks at least an hour twice a day. Before she walks, she loosens her joints by riding a stationery bike.

"Virginia is such a treat for the kids," said High School health care provider Patty Schachtner. Schachtner said she hopes to have Belisle talk to all of the High School students about the benefits of walking and staying in good physical condition

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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