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Falcons boost children’s exercise while visiting Fair Street school

POSTED: October 25, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Kayla Waller runs through an obstacle course with Antoine Harris of the Atlanta Falcons during a fitness program Tuesday at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School.

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A few Atlanta Falcons football players swooped into the gym at Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School to teach second-graders that there’s more to physical fitness than fun and games.

Falcons players Justin Peele, Renardo Foster and Antoine Harris led about 80 second-grade students through a series of hurdles, cones and sprints Tuesday morning as part of the Falcons Fitness Zone. Started in 2005, the Falcons Fitness Zone program has football players making visits twice a month to 40 metro Atlanta schools to teach elementary and middle school kids about fitness and nutrition.

The players visit schools on Tuesdays, their day off.

Lea Bond, a spokeswoman for the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, said the foundation started the program to address the alarmingly high rates of adolescent obesity in Georgia. Bond said the foundation partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County to bring the fitness zone to a handful of schools in Hall County.

Bond said she hopes the interaction with football players in a physical fitness setting teaches kids that fitness shouldn’t stop after childhood.

"The kids can see even if you’re an adult, you can run around and have fun, too," she said.

Erin Rassle, 7, is a second-grade student at Fair Street who participated in the event. Erin said she enjoyed the special day with the football players and has noticed some of her peers don’t get outside and exercise enough.

"It’s just like you’re playing in the backyard," she said of the fitness zone. "I think too many (kids) ... just watch TV all the time like ‘Sponge Bob.’"

Betsy Dietsch, a registered dietician, is a representative of the Southeastern United Dairy Association and works with the Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation in the fitness zone program to educate students about proper nutrition. She said kids these days are in a "calcium crisis."

"They do not get enough calcium," Dietsch said. "Instead of drinking milk, they’re going for high sugar sodas or sports drinks."

She said it’s important for children to get at least three servings of dairy every day to prevent osteoporosis later in life. Dietsch said an eight-ounce glass of milk combined with three small cheese cubes and eight ounces of yogurt constitute the proper daily portion of dairy for a child.

Dietsch said osteoporosis is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences since calcium is primarily laid down in bones before one’s teen years are over.

She said chocolate milk is a great way to get kids to consume calcium. It has the same amount of calcium as unflavored milk.

Dietsch said chocolate milk is also a great post workout drink that allows athletes to recover quickly from exertion. She said many college football teams regularly chug chocolate milk after practice to stay healthy.



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