HANCOCK - Lilia Chapin took part in the first BRIDGE High School Core Wellness class at the Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center last year, and at the end of the class she could see a difference in her body shape and she felt healthier.
However, although the class was also supposed to help students be more focused in their other classes, Chapin said that aspect didn't work so well for her.
"I really didn't notice that because (the exercise class) was at the end of the day," she said.
From left, BRIDGE Alternative High School students Ally Chapman, Daymen Mihelich, Lilia Chapin and Trevor Frusti, work out on the school’s Cybex modular six-exercise machine. The students are taking part in a Core Wellness program, which has as one of its goals increasing the students ability to focus better in class. (Houghton Daily Mining Gazette photo by Kurt Hauglie)
She's taking the Core Wellness class again this year during her senior year, Chapin said.
"I pretty much enjoy it," she said. "I like to (stationary) row. I did the (Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center) Rowing Challenge last year."
Trish Sherman, coordinator of the BRIDGE High School, said the Core Wellness class is based on concepts presented in a book by Dr. John Ratey, which states continuous exercise can actually change the brain and make it function better.
Sherman said she exercises herself so she sees the benefit of it.
"I know how much better I feel," she said.
On Ratey's website, Sherman said she found a description of the Core Wellness program being used with great success in a Canadian high school.
"It sounded exactly like what we need," she said.
Last year, Sherman said Terry Smythe, fitness director at the Aspirus Keweenaw Fitness Center was very helpful with the students, but the facility was sold this past spring, so an alternative had to be found.
Sherman said the students enjoyed the workouts so much they wanted to continue it, but getting gym memberships for all of them would have been too expensive, so an alternative had to be found.
"The kids wanted their own gym," she said.
Students in a business class at Michigan Technological University heard about the BRIDGE school's need, so they began a letter-writing campaign to seek assistance from local businesses. Eventually, Portage Health offered used equipment from their former fitness center.
"Portage Health responded," she said. "They were moving and asked if we wanted their old equipment."
Sherman said as grateful as BRIDGE staff and students are for the equipment, it includes only weight machines and no aerobic equipment. To fill that need, a $5,000 grant was sought and received from Plum Creek Timber in L'Anse. With that money, an elliptical machine and a treadmill were purchased for the new BRIDGE gym located in a lower level of the building.
Sherman said she felt confident of getting the grant because her husband works there and he said she should apply, and because of the company's history of supporting other local organizations and efforts, such as the Keweenaw Family Resource Center Tree House Indoor Playground, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly and the Lake Superior Stewardship Initiative.
"They've given a lot to the community," she said.
Angela Lucas, Portage Health community health director, is giving guidance with the exercise programs to the BRIDGE students. She said the machines Portage Health provided are a Cybex modular six-exercise machine, a bicep curl, calf raise, hamstring curl and a pre-core stretcher, which increases flexibility and range of motion.
Lucas said before they start exercise routines, she does a baseline examination of each of the 30 students taking part in the program. She checks muscle endurance, flexibility, height, weight, and waist, hip, thigh and arm measurements.
"That will give us data to compare at the end of the trimester," she said.
Although she won't be at every workout the students take, Lucas said early on she's giving them instructions on proper technique. All the students do the same general routine, with some individual variations.
Sherman said the purpose of the Core Wellness program is to help students focus better in their classes and to teach them to make good decisions about their health, and although no official evaluation was done at the end of last year's program because of the sale of the fitness center, changes were noticed.
"The only thing we did notice is when they did stop exercising, behavior worsened," she said.
Teachers also noticed some of the students taking part in the program were more focused in class, Sherman said.
This year, Sherman said as part of the Core Wellness program, student attendance, behavior, grades and physical fitness will be tracked.
All BRIDGE students are required to take the exercise program, Sherman said, and they're being given one elective credit for it.
Chapin said because of her experience with the Core Wellness program, she expects she'll continue exercising as she gets older. She knows for certain she'll be working out as soon as she gets out of high school.
"I'm joining the Navy, so I know I will be," she said.