Alternative to traditional P.E. course to be offered at AHS

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

A new physical education course is on the horizon for school next year, and if it's successful, Alice High School students could see their lives change forever by the experience, instructors hope.

Coach Tracy Zamora is creating a new physical education class that students can take as their required P.E. credit.

Starting next year, coaches Kim Paisley and Lisa Almaraz, along with AHS instructor and nutrition specialist Barbara Garcia, will lead a class called Lifetime Wellness and Fitness.

Up to 30 students can sign up for the course, which will study the progress the students make, not only in their physical condition, but also in their lifestyle choices.

Each member, with parental permission, will undergo a series of tests to chart their progress during the year.

All the students will give a family history, charting what diseases or disorders run in their family. The students will also be tested for their Body Mass Index (BMI), body weight and measurements, blood pressure and cholesterol levels throughout the year.

If successful in this endeavor, it could change the way young people think about physical activity and nutrition, Zamora said. The information from this group could be used to expand the program.

"The goal really is to help instill in these students good eating habits and lifetime exercise habits. When we get older, most people join clubs or get a trainer to push them to exercise. Hopefully, if we teach the kids how to do enjoyable things now to improve their health, they'll take these lessons to heart, and the motivation will come from themselves," Zamora said.

The students will be monitored in terms of physical activity and what they eat, even during the weekends.

Zamora said diabetes is a big problem here in Alice. Even if a student is suffering from diabetes, there are certain things they can do to prolong their life and to protect themselves from problems such as heart disease, stroke and cancer.

She understands that most students do not like traditional P.E. classes, but the fitness portion of this class will utilize forms of exercise most P.E. students never experience.

Pilates, a form of exercise made popular by world class athletes, will be utilized.

The students will also participate in yoga, body sculpting, weight training, weight circuits, treadmills and bicycle machines.

These are items often used by students in athletics, but not the general physical education student.

"As opposed to the traditional P.E. class, the students here will be in it not because they have to, but because they want to make a change in their health and fitness. The class will be tough, because students have gotten used to eating foods high in fats. But this is not about dieting; it's about learning to choose the right kinds of foods. The fitness we're going to teach them, they can do their whole life," Zamora said.

She hopes the course will bring in other community members willing to help. She has taken the initial steps to contact CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital officials, and she hopes they will assist with testing the students.

"They're really big on preventative measures and wellness. I hope some of them can even come into the classroom to speak to the students about health and wellness," Zamora said. "From speaking with several pediatricians in the area, they think having such a class is a good idea, due to the increase in the number of cases of childhood obesity.

"We have statistics for the nation and for the state of Texas, but after next year, we'll hopefully have statistics to take back to the school board members for Alice. If everything goes well, we could offer two classes the following year."

There is still room in the Lifetime Wellness and Fitness class for interested students. Any students interested can sign up for the course, although space is limited.