The Gainesville area has a lake, at least 443 acres of parkland and fitness centers galore, yet up to a quarter of Hall County residents are just spending their free time not doing physical activity.
Recently the Centers for Disease Control estimated 21-26 percent of people living in Hall County are inactive.
“I think we’ve evolved into a culture that is inactive as a whole,” said William Schofield, superintendent of Hall County Schools.
The CDC recommends people spend more of their leisure time participating in aerobic activity, which will help reduce the risk for diabetes, heart disease and other medical issues.
But with the elimination of recess and the increase in technological amusements, children are less active than ever. Schofield said up to one in three third graders is obese.
Recently Hall County Schools was one of only six systems selected to participate in UnitedHealthcare’s nationwide initiative against childhood obesity, which will begin next fall. They will also be the first participants in the statewide
Fitnessgram program. Together the two will assess children’s fitness levels and educate them about eating healthy and being active.
No student is required to participate in either program, but Schofield hopes the kids will take some of what they learn home with them.
“We just think there’s a lot of potential to bring positive results to the community,” he said.
Gainesville councilwoman Myrtle Figueras recently announced her support of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move program, which targets childhood obesity. She feels inactivity is a solvable problem.
“I don’t think that it needs to be an issue,” she said.
There are currently several area initiatives to promote wellness in the community. Figueras hopes to unite them and turn Gainesville into a “City of Movement.”
But Karen Smith, who recently joined the Hall County Wellness Committee, knows how difficult it can be to get people moving.
“It’s intimidating to get started,” she said.
Smith, who is also the wellness director at the J.A. Walters Family YMCA on Howard Road, works to provide exercise programs that are fun and different. The Y offers water aerobics, yoga, Pilates, spin classes and the latest “it” in fitness,
Zumba, where patrons engage in Latin-inspired dance exercise.
“They’re moving and they’re dancing and they’re having fun,” she said.
Lynn Noll, 47, a resident of northern Hall County was at the Y with her family Sunday. She and her daughter use the FitLinxx system, which allows them to set long-term fitness goals and monitor their progress as they go from machine to machine. It will also let them know if they are performing the exercises correctly.
“You know, exercise just makes you feel better,” Noll said. “It relieves stress — \hit’s good mentally and physically.”
Noll’s family is pretty active. She walks around her neighborhood, and her sons participate in soccer and weight-lifting.
While she doesn’t think it is the responsibility of schools to make kids exercise, Noll believes that schools can help by exposing kids to physical activities. If it weren’t for school, her sons would not be engaged in their current fitness activities.
“I do think it starts when you’re young — it’s a mindset that you adapt,” she said.
And being fit might make children better students.
“There’s more and more research that correlates physical activity with academic success,” Schofield said.
There’s another reason for youth to get fit. Like many of those participating in area wellness initiatives, Schofield is concerned this generation of kids won’t out-live their parents.
“I think we can do better than that,” Schofield said. “In fact, I know we can.”