Up and down, up and down. About 10 small children raised their arms in tandem, giving a large, colorful parachute enough lift so they could take turns ducking and running beneath the canopy.
“Each person can go under, and then come out,” fitness trainer Liza Prokop called out, encouraging some of the youngest students.
“They’re building strength in their upper arms because they’re lifting against resistance,” she said later. “And they’re having fun.”
The Wilkes-Barre YMCA’s twice-weekly gym class for home-schooled and cyber-school children IS fun, several of Prokop’s charges attested.
“I like to stretch,” 8-year-old Mary Cherasaro of Kingston said.
“I like to swim,” 7-year-old Lorelei Gaugler of Luzerne said.
“I like ‘the frog,’ ” said a 7-year-old named Kaiya, who seemed to enjoy jumping like an amphibian.
While the younger group jumped and stretched and played with the parachute on a recent Monday (swimming would take place on Wednesday), a group of older students worked out on the other side of the gym, running around obstacles, exercising their limbs like a mountain climber and, at one point, maintaining a difficult-to-hold squatting position while their teacher counted down.
“Five, four, three, two, one.”
As Tyseane Whitt, 23, an intern from Lock Haven University, counted down the last seconds, some of the older children relaxed and sighed gratefully, some even tumbling to the gym floor now that the entire 15 seconds were over.
There was a trick to keeping your balance the whole time, 11-year-old Jacob Federof of Plymouth said.
“Pick something on the floor and stare at it,” he advised.
So now you know, in case you want to try it at home.
Speaking of exercising at home, mom Trisha Gaugler of Luzerne said, a home-schooling family could do sit-ups or push-ups in their living room.
But she and several other parents who were waiting for their sons and daughters to finish the class said they’re glad their children can come to the YMCA for a structured lesson with other children their own age.
It’s hard to put together a game of kickball or soccer with just two or three children at home, Shannon Wakely of Dallas pointed out.
So what are the benefits of an organized physical-education class?
The Centers for Disease Control have said regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem, and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people 6–17 years old participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
The physical-education classes for home-schooled children meet twice weekly at the YMCA, Prokop said, and there is room for more students to join them.