CAMERON - The physical education staff at Cameron High School may be one of the few who believe playing video games can actually make students more physically active.
They proved this point at the Be Healthy Now open house event last week, showing off the school's exergaming room, which features several television sets with Xbox gaming systems and various fitness games, an interactive lightboard game, a ping pong table, stretchbands and a basketball arcade game.
According to physical education teacher Richard Moffo, students who may not usually be interested in traditional gym classes are very enthusiastic about playing games and don't even realize they are getting exercise while playing.
Photos by Sarah Harmon
Cameron Middle School students Breana Boggs, left, Colton Dobbs and Paige Butler play with a light board in the school’s exergaming room.
Cameron Middle School students Chasity Metz, left, and Morgan Whipkey exercise with stretch bands in the school’s exergaming room.
"It's an alternative to PE and it's been a big hit," Moffo said. "Instead of being in the gym, kids get their physical activity in this room. More kids come out sweaty from this room than they do the gym."
Much of the exergaming equipment was funded through the Be Healthy Now Community Initiative. The program was created by the Northern West Virginia Rural Health Education Center and the West Virginia University Institute for Community and Rural Health, which seeks to improve the physical activity and nutrition of residents in Marshall, Tyler, Calhoun, Upshur and Taylor counties through a two-year Center of Disease Control Community Transformation Grant of almost $400,000.
Be Healthy Now focuses on several components to improve the health of West Virginia communities including implementing healthy concession stands at community events, a physical activity strategic plan in schools, implementing joint-use agreements for school recreation facilities and communities, and providing community and work places information on nutrition.
According to April Vestal, program director of the Institute for Community Enrollment at WVU, the program is targeted to West Virginia to combat the state's large obesity rates and other health issues.
She said Cameron is a "model school" for Be Healthy Now and hopes to convince more county school boards in the state to make student health a priority by including more physical activity and healthy food choices in schools.
"We're tired of the state being No. 1 in so many bad things," Vestal said. "All we hear is national statistics on smoking, diabetes and chronic diseases in West Virginia. We want schools to see this. It's our hope more schools can see the value in Be Healthy Now and become just as passionate about it."