October 16, 2008

East Cleveland children dance for a healthier lifestyle on new nursing school study

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Approximately 20 children from Mayfair Elementary School in East Cleveland will bounce to the dance beat this school year in a new study by a faculty member of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve University.

Students will participate in a research project to increase exercise to combat the growing health concern of pediatric obesity.

"We want children to enjoy exercising," said Marjorie "Peg" Heinzer, associate professor of nursing.

Heinzer is the lead investigator on Midwest Nursing Research Society-funded study, "Dance Pad Exercise for a Healthy Weight in Childhood."

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should have an hour of vigorous exercise daily.

Dancing, which is fun to do, may be one way to exercise for these children, said Heinzer.

Based on height and weight, the children between the ages of 8 and 11 have been selected to participate in the early morning dance sessions. They were found to be at the 95th percentile or higher for their weight and age, placing them at risk for a number of health issues from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, Heinzer said.

Children from Mayfair will be compared with a control group of 20 children from Chambers Elementary School, who also are at risk for obesity. Both groups of children will be surveyed for quality of life issues and periodically report on a 24-hour food intake and other activity programs.

Both schools serve breakfast and lunch and have physical education classes. The only difference between the two groups of children is that the Mayfair students will receive additional exercise at school in the form of dancing before breakfast.

Mayfair children will step to the music in a fitness program called "GenerationFIT: In the Grooveâ„¢"—a program that offers salsa, hip-hop and other instrumental music and was designed to help school children focus and center their energy levels.

Heinzer has adapted the program for the study. She purchased a number of Play Station IIs, dance pads and the dance program. Five children will participate at each television set-up. After the study is completed, Heinzer will divide and donate the equipment to the two schools for continued use.

This study builds on work began in a pilot in 2006.

During that study at a school in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, Heinzer found several serendipitous findings. Children had improved physical coordination and also were able to focus better in the classroom. They also had lower suspension rates than non-dancing students.

In pilot study, she used a Shark Tale program, donated by Activision, a company affiliated with Disney productions.

"Many were so excited about the program that they were going to save their money or ask for the program as a birthday present," said Heinzer.

Her study in East Cleveland has been welcomed by the school's Wellness Committee of parents and teachers. This group forms programs and activities to promote health and wellness in children.

"This is a real partnership between the school and university that benefits the children," said Mayfair Principal Hiawatha Shivers.

While children are exercising, they may also be having their first contact with someone from a college and have the experience of learning at a young age about what college is, added Shivers.

In addition to the exercise study, Heinzer has helped the school in other ways. She received funds from the National Association for Nurse Practitioners to provide 83 bike helmets for children in the first and second grades. She also received a small grant from the Ohio Action for Healthy Kids to purchase a water cooler near the school's gym.

For more information contact Susan Griffith, 216.368.1004.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, October 16, 2008 01:09 PM | News Topics: Collaborations/Partnerships, Community Outreach, Faculty, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research, news

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