HEALTHY Armstrong buys 150 mountain bikes for students

| Friday, Oct. 7, 2011

The gyms in the Armstrong School District aren't as busy as they used to be. That's because a lot of the physical education class students are outside riding mountain bikes.

It's been like that since HEALTHY Armstrong bought 150 mountain bikes and helmets, 30 for each of the school district's four senior high schools and its junior high school in Kittanning, at a total of about $53,000 using some of the funding from a federally administrated Carol M. White program PEP (Physical Education Program) grant of about $1 million awarded to that community program.

HEALTHY Armstrong is a community partnership of ACMH Hospital, ACMH Foundation, Armstrong School District, Children's Community Pediatrics-Armstrong, Armstrong County government and UPMC Health Plan.

The acronym in HEALTHY Armstrong stands for Healthy Eating Active Lifestyles Together Helping Youth.

The goal is to improve the health of families in Armstrong County and to help children maintain a healthy weight through improved nutrition and increased physical activity.

"One of the goals of HEALTHY Armstrong is to increase the physical activity of the kids so this was one of the ways we chose to do that," said HEALTHY Armstrong project director Kay Owen. "We're trying to change PhysEd class from what it used to be. Getting mountain bikes was a way to expose kids to new and different activities and things they might be able to do for lifetime fitness."

On Wednesday, a pack of about 30 students came peddling up the street past Kittanning High School on those bikes.

"We don't have to run for gym," said Elliot Zydonik, a sophomore at Kittanning High School. "We just come out here and ride the trail to Buttermilk (Falls) and back and it's an enjoyable gym class. It's a great way to spend gym class."

"It's pretty cool that the school is getting extra athletic stuff for us to do," said junior Evan Bowser.

When the bikes first arrived there was a rush by the students to get to them.

"I was making other kids move out of my way so I could get to the one I wanted," said senior David DeVivo. "I wanted the shiniest one."

"I wanted the lime-green one," said Aleena Howard, a junior.

All of the students agreed it was better to be outdoors, in nature, getting some fresh air, than to be indoors on a nice fall day.

"The kids were literally running out the door to get there to ride," said principal Jim Rummel. "We're very fortunate that our facilities are very conducive (to bike riding). They can go down the street and they're right on the trail. It's safe. It's just an outstanding experience for the kids."

Physical education teacher and a PEP coordinator at Kittanning High School, Ed Morris, said bike riding is a great alternative to the regular gym routine.

"The kids love it because it gives them another choice for gym class," said Morris. "They look forward to it. They ask every day."

"The nice thing about the bikes is they don't even realize that they're using cardio exercise because they're having so much fun," said physical education teacher, wellness coordinator for the Armstrong School District and the HEALTHY Armstrong program's school coordinator, Devin Lorigan.

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