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Quarterback helps North Grove students make fitness part of healthier lifestyle

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Hundreds of North Grove Elementary students now start their school day with stretches and exercises.

Their families get information that details what exercises they are doing and how they can feed their body with peanut butter and banana on toast or a piece of fruit before a workout.

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck and Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health have launched the wellness program, Change the Play. The program is designed to teach residents how to exercise and eat healthier for a lifetime.

One of the best ways to reach people is through schools, said Dr. Paul Haut, chief medical officer at Riley.

North Grove was chosen as one of about 30 pilot schools.

The students will learn wellness tips daily for eight weeks. Their families will get information on lifestyle changes they can make. The school will get a curriculum for topics that can’t be taught every day at the elementary school level.

Elementary school students get physical education once a week. Nutrition is rolled into the rare health class. Change the Play will make exercise and nutrition a daily part of a North Grove student’s life, said Ron Siner, assistant principal of the school.

Seeing Andrew Luck every day on the screen will help, he said.

“When you have someone famous like Luck for them to look up to, it gets (students’) attention.”

During the first week of the pilot program, students watched a screen in their classroom minutes before school began. Luck asked them to do twist lunges and to kick their leg straight out and touch their toes.

Parents would later get a print out detailing the exercises students did that week and a recipe for whole wheat toast with banana and peanut butter.

Tips come from Riley doctors, dietitians, sports performance coaches and Luck. The topics also cover the importance of staying hydrated and building strength to developing coping skills for dealing with everyday stress, the news release said.

Getting the whole family involved is the crux of the program, Haut said.

Kids have to see that staying healthy is a lifestyle change and something the whole family will have to do, he said.

“We really need engagement from the families,” Haut said. “It’s about lifestyle changes.”

Students aren’t the sole focus of the program.

Online curriculum launched last April geared toward every age level. Physicians at IU Health have the curriculum for any patient that would like to hear about health and wellness.

Pilot schools were chosen based on demographics of schools, Haut said. Educators will help critique the curriculum to keep the program going, he said.

“Schools are a way to get at students directly,” Haut said.

Change the Play will be made available to all Indiana schools this fall, according to a news release.

Students will make physical goals for themselves to achieve during the eight weeks and will track their progress.

At the end of the eight weeks, 20 students from each school district will be invited to Indianapolis for a field day celebration. The April event will take place on the very field where Luck and his Colts teammates practice. Hundreds of kids are expected to attend.

Some classrooms at North Grove started a week earlier than others. Already, students were telling Haut that they were getting stronger and exercise was getting easier.

Change the Play comes at the end of a snowy winter, where students have been cooped up inside, including during recess.

“This is good, especially this year, a lot of these children haven’t had physical activity because they have been inside so much,” Siner said.

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