FEBRUARY 26, 2019 —For years, our partner Healthy Futures has been recognizing children’s commitment to daily physical activity with monthly prizes.
Now, a local group of pediatricians is adding another level of recognition for these active Alaska kids.
The Children’s Clinic, a pediatric clinic in Anchorage since 1970, is encouraging their elementary school-age patients to participate in the free, school-based Healthy Futures Challenge. Patients in participating elementary schools can bring their completed Healthy Futures physical activity log to the clinic, show it to their pediatrician or nurse, and receive a special prize to celebrate that activity. The clinic will even accept the log as a faxed or emailed copy. These Anchorage pediatricians also are opening up the challenge to children who attend schools that are not yet signed up for the Healthy Futures Challenge. The child can download the physical activity log, fill it out for the month and turn it in to the clinic for a prize.
Dr. Janet Shen, one of three pediatricians at The Children’s Clinic, said she thought it was a great idea for doctors to recognize the physical activity their young patients are doing.
“This is exactly what we want you to do,” Shen said. Getting kids moving can encourage the rest of the family to be physically active, too, she said.
“With this growing epidemic of heart disease, diabetes and obesity, I think any time we can encourage healthy habits from a young age, hopefully we can play a role in promoting long-term health,” she said.
“It will be something that will stick with them for the rest of their lives.”
Healthy Futures, a nonprofit program run through the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame, offers two physical activity challenges in elementary schools each school year: one in the fall and the second in the spring. Students keep a log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. This helps Alaska children get closer to the national recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity every day for the best health. The challenge is free to schools and students. Students who successfully log their physical activity each month of the challenge win Healthy Futures prizes, which have included water bottles, jump ropes, and other prizes that promote activity.
The Children’s Clinic — which cares for about 5,500 patients — now adds a second level of recognition for active children. Patients who completed an activity log for February will receive a glow-in-the-dark wristband that says “I’m an action hero.” This band will go along with the wristbands that Healthy Futures gives to participating students this school year. Future prizes from The Children’s Clinic will include a drawing to play at local gyms, such as rock gyms or trampoline playgrounds.
“I just have a passion for kids to be outside,” Shen said. “I try to tear them away from their screens to get them to be more physically active.”
Children — and their parents — are spending more and more time on their phones, tablets and devices, and this screen time pulls them away from being active, Shen said. Regular physical activity plus adequate sleep and a healthy diet can have benefits beyond physical health, including improved behavior, mental health and performance in the classroom, she said.
The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge continues through March and April this school year. It’s not too late for elementary schools to sign up and participate. This spring, about 150 schools across Alaska have signed up for the challenge. Principals or teachers can sign up their schools for the Healthy Futures Challenge using this simple online database. If you have questions about the Healthy Futures Challenge, contact Alyse Loran, Healthy Futures program coordinator, at (907) 360-6331 or firstname.lastname@example.org.