Encouraging kids to stay active

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The Steelers went on an all out blitz in an effort to get kids more active, physically fit and heart healthy as a part of the Play 60 Challenge.

Play 60 is the NFL collaboration with teams and the American Heart Association to encourage kids to be active for at least 60 minutes a day, as well as develop healthy eating habits.

Steelers strength and conditioning coaches Garrett Giemont and Marcel Pastoor conducted four sessions at area schools, including South Hills Middle School, McKeesport-Founders Hall Middle School, Pittsburgh Schiller and Pittsburgh Sterrett.

"It's crucial we get these students up and running and moving around," said American Heart Association's Karen Colbert. "One in three kids in the United States is overweight or obese. They are not getting physically active. We commend the NFL and the Steelers for their participation. There are so many budget cuts going on in the schools and unfortunately its things like music and physical education. When we can incorporate physical education in the classroom, it really gives us a boost.

"Nearly 80 percent of cardio vascular diseases can be prevented with modified lifestyle changes, exercise, physical activity and good nutrition. That will keep the Type 2 diabetes down in children and they won't grow up as adults with cardio vascular problems. We want to target the children now."

Giemont and Pastoor ran the kids through series of drills, many of them the same ones that the Steelers players use on a regular basis, and encouraged them to spend more time playing outside and less time playing video games.

"I have two boys, one is five and one two," said Giemont. "When you take a peek at it video games rule young people's minds. My five-year old plays them and my two-year old wants to play. The only good thing about them is they want to play outside too. I could see where kids get sucked into the sedentary life where they do computers and video games and stay right there on the couch. I can see how it can happen real easily.

"It's important to talk about old school play, which is what I grew up with. We used to do that naturally because we didn't have any of the devices they have now. When you got home from school that is what you did. You were always moving and exercising. I think it's important to get the message out there and get kids back to wanting to move and play first and having their video games as a secondary aspect."

For coaches who are accustomed to working with professional athletes, working with the kids has been fun for them.

"When we go out in the community we want to make sure these kids are staying active for at least 60 minutes a day," said Pastoor. "It's important for these kids to get out, be active and play sports. This is fun. You realize you were a kid way back when. Now it's fun to give back."

The schools were chosen because the students completed the Play 60 Challenge, which included getting 60 minutes of exercise a day while charting their activity and what they eat.

Each school was presented with a $1,000 check from the Steelers for physical fitness equipment, and the team also donated all of the equipment they brought with them for the sessions.

"The money will go to enhancing our sports program," said Lisa Owens, a counselor at Pittsburgh Schiller. "The kids like to play outside in the courtyard and we will buy equipment for that.

"We hope our students will make better decisions about eating and make a commitment to be active for 60 minutes each day because we understand how important that is for their future. The students enjoy the challenge. They think more about activities because of the challenge. It's all about awareness. When you talk to them about what they are eating and doing, it brings awareness."

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