The 10,000 LB. Challenge

By Pamela Bond

Victoria Advocate

Oct. 29, 2007

Asking elementary and junior high students to walk 100 miles and lift 10,000 pounds each in one school year may seem like a challenge, but that’s the goal adapted P.E. teacher Susan Sherman has set for special education classes in Victoria school district.

“My son really enjoys it,” said Wendy Hughes of Victoria, whose son Caleb attends Chandler Elementary School. “They make it fun. I think it’s really helped with his gross motor skills.”

The “Courageous Pacers Program,” written by Corpus Christi physical therapist Tim Erson, includes students with severe disabilities to those who needed minimal assistance.

In Victoria, about 160 students at 12 schools participate in the program, which began this year and has already had great results, special education coordinator Cheryl Roitsch said.

“I’d say the special kids are more likely to be at risk for child obesity because they’re not going to go home and ride their bikes or play outside by themselves,” Sherman said.

“Like kids who are autistic, they are more likely to sit around and watch TV. By elementary, or in junior high, they tend to get heavier.”

Besides promoting fitness, the program can benefit academic skills by improving language and concentration, Sherman said.

“Our physical therapist wanted me to try it, and my supervisor, Cheryl (Roitsch), was really gung-ho about it,” Sherman said. “So I decided to do it for a month and either it works or it doesn’t, but either way I tried. Now when I go to the schools and I want to try other games, the kids ask to do the pacers. It just went so well that we kept doing it.”

To lift 10,000 pounds, each child holds a water-filled bottle that weighs one pound in each hand. (Smaller children have two half-pound bottles). Each repetition of lifting the bottles is equal to two pounds. The student completes 10 repetitions in five different exercises, which equals 100 pounds, and participates in that routine three times a week (300 pounds). Eventually, as the students build strength, the bottles will be filled with sand, making them weigh two pounds each.

The 100 miles are calculated in aerobic miles, meaning that 20 minutes of walking equals one mile. During the program, which classes use daily, students aim to walk three aerobic miles, or 60 minutes, each week. Student unable to walk complete a different aerobic activity for the time period, such as shooting basketballs.

“At the beginning, there was an autistic girl who didn’t even notice I was in the room,” Sherman said. “She was twirling around in her own little world. Now as soon as I come to class, she gets her water bottles and is ready to go.”