Project Fit America and St. Francis Unveil New Fitness Program at Simpsonville Elementary

Students at Simpsonville Elementary at Morton Place are getting a power workout in strength, fitness and flexibility training thanks to new, state-of-the-art fitness equipment made possible by a partnership with Bon Secours St. Francis Health System.

Project Fit America (PFA), a national, nonprofit organization, is dedicated to improving children's health by making fitness part of the everyday school experience. Simpsonville Elementary at Morton Place is the first school in Greenville County to be selected as a PFA model school.

The outdoor fitness equipment includes parallel bars, pull up bars, a vault bar, sit-up and step-up stations, and a pole climbing station. Indoor mobile fitness equipment, a dynamic curriculum that includes fitness games and challenges, onsite teacher training and lesson plans for classroom instruction on smoking intervention, nutrition, and understanding the body round out the program. The outdoor fitness stations also are available to the community's use after school hours.

"This partnership has allowed our school to have an outstanding fitness program for our students. At all grade levels, children will be involved in lessons that promote movement, fitness, and full engagement of their PE time while having unbelieveable fun," says Simpsonville Elementary Principal Jan James. "We are very appreciative of Bon Secours St. Francis Health System for providing the tools our children need to live healthier lives and to enjoy the benefits that exercise provides to their bodies."

To determine the impact of the program, Simpsonville Elementary will collect data over the next two years to measure strength, aerobic capacity, cardiovascular endurance, and other components of a healthy body, using pre- and post-data to analyze the effectiveness of the program. Fitness testing results report by PFA schools across the country show an average increase of:

  • 44.9% in upper body strength
  • 14.7% in abdominal strength
  • 11.2% increase in cardiovascular endurance

"Bringing Project Fit America to Simpsonville Elementary is in line with St. Francis' commitment to build health communities," says Natalie Daugherty, St. Francis Health Outreach Coordinator. "Our mission is to be 'good help to those in need'; PFA helps children become more involved in choosing fitness activities over sedentary lifestyles."

"Not only does the fitness equipment provide children with exercise, but the Project Fit America curriculum allows the entire school faculty to play a role in making the school a healthier place for children to learn," says Penny Bostain, District consultant for comprehensive health education.

Simpsonville Elementary at Morton Place has had a strong fitness program since 1981 when the Simpsonville Skippers jump-rope demonstration team was introduced. Today, students continue to use advanced jump-rope skills to promote a healthy lifestyle. Students perform at high school and college half-time shows and participate in the Simpsonville Christmas parade.

The Need:
Childhood obesity is a serious problem amoung American children. Today's children are the first generation whose life expectancy is estimated to be shorter than that of their parents. South Carolina ranks high in heart disease, stroke, and Type II diabetes, all of which are serious chronic diseases associated with obesity.

The Benefits:
Statistics show that healthier, fit students have better attendance, better focus, and better academic performance. Living physically fit helps youth avoid health problems through preventive health measures. Learning to value physical fitness as a child helps the student continue to value physical fitness as a growing adult. Elementary shcools that provide a positive wellness environment provide important support to help students choose to be physically active at school and away from school.


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