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October 17, 2018

These students work out with a personal trainer during the school day

Maria Pro helping Philly kids make the grade in fitness thanks to funding initiative

Fitness Public Schools
1017218_kid_fitness_Flickr USAG-Humphreys/via Flickr Creative Commons


In a time when our country is experiencing extremely high rates of obesity — 39.8 percent of adults and 18.5 percent of children in the United States, according to 2016 statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the importance of health and fitness is only increasing.

Laying the groundwork for a healthy life in childhood is a crucial means of prevention for what has been referred to as an epidemic problem by the World Health Organization and other health institutions.

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In Philadelphia, a local fitness trainer is teaming up with a public school to teach students the importance of fitness while showing them some workout basics. The program started with the new school year in September.

Maria Pro, an online personal trainer and former elementary school teacher, is leading an optional fitness class for 6th, 7th and 8th graders at Cook-Wissahickon School, a pre-K-8 school in Northwest Philadelphia. The opportunity came about after some Philly public schools received funding for “choice activities” that allow students to pick a program of interest, similar to an elective class. Pro said she is the only trainer leading a fitness “choice” program in the Philadelphia public school system.

Since the kids get to choose their activity, Pro is leading a group of middle schoolers who want to be physically active — and helping students to work off some of their energy for the benefit of teachers and parents alike. Other choice activities include karate, hip hop dance, graphic novel-making and even reading, according to Sean Gray, dean of students at Cook-Wissahickon.


During their weekly fitness period, Pro teaches the importance and benefits of fitness, explains how the body works, stresses proper form in basic workout moves and helps students focus on specific muscle groups.

Sprints and push-ups are some obvious moves Pro has incorporated that the kids already know, but sometimes she brings props to class, like battle ropes, to step up their training session a notch. 

Pro plans to impart a variety of moves into each week’s workout, which will help them prepare for their final assignment at the end of the semester in January: designing a workout plan for their partner.

“It’s important, even if it’s not in a school setting, to get kids out and moving, especially elementary and middle school students who have so much energy," she said. "Even if they don’t have the time during school, having time after school — for schools that don’t have the opportunity of these choice activities — to get out and run around and be active is so important to their development.”

Gray echoes the importance of getting students to burn off energy during the day. Plus, Gray mentions that a benefit of these activities is that "it gives kids a choice, and kids like choices — they can either spend an extra 30 minutes with their favorite teacher, or get involved with an activity they're interested in."  

Here’s to more fitness in Philly schools!

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