Health Matters Blog

Play for Health

by Wendy Cornwell

This is first of a two-part column leading in up to BMH’s 20th Annual Health Fair, taking place in the BMH Parking Lot from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm on Saturday, September 24.

Nickelodeon’s annual Worldwide Day of Play is in a couple of weeks. Since 2004, the network has stopped their afternoon programming on the last Saturday afternoon in September. Instead, from 12 noon to 3:00pm, each channel shows a message encouraging kids and parents to shut off their televisions and go play outdoors. Last year the message read: “Today is Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play! We’re outside playing and you should be too! So, turn off your TV, shut down your computer, put down that cell phone, and go ALL OUT! We’ll be back at 3! “

Over the years, the Worldwide Day of Play has gained momentum with the aid of celebrities from Nickelodeon programming. This year they’re holding a giant field day in Washington D.C., and the event will serve as a rally for participation in the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA), a program that asks kids to be active for an hour a day, at least five days a week for six out of eight weeks. PALA was created by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! initiative, which has the goal to end childhood obesity within a generation. You can get more information about it at

Childhood obesity is officially classified as a health epidemic by the Center for Disease Control with good reason. In the past thirty years obesity rates in children have tripled. Obesity is increasing in every demographic — gender, ethnicity, education level, geographic region and income. The State Department of Health says one out of four 8-12 graders in Vermont are overweight or are at risk for being overweight. And kids who are overweight are more likely to continue to be obese into adulthood, resulting in chronic health problems.

We’ve timed our 20th Annual Health Fair to coincide with the Worldwide Day of Play. For the past three years, the fair theme has been “Launch into Motion” and what we’re trying to do is expose the community to all the different ways folks of all different ages and life spectrums can get exercise and eat in a healthy way.

Kids like to play, and playing is exercise. We’ll have a stage for demonstrating ideas for fun group and individual physical activities for every age group at the health fair. Green Street Elementary School’s “Jumping Geckos” team will show the incredible aerobic benefits of jumping rope, which burns calories faster than running and improves balance, coordination and agility.

Teens might find hula hooping an entertaining activity. What exploded as an international fad in the 1950s is making a comeback as an exercise because it is very aerobic and very rigorous. You can twirl hoops on your legs and arms as well as your waist so you can work pretty much all the muscle groups. Alotta Hoopla from Massachusetts will be demonstrating techniques and discussing routines for working out that include weighted hoops. For youth, the Vermont National Guard inflatable obstacle course offers a fun challenge.

Adults like to play and experiment too. Demonstrations of Yoga, Tai Chi, or Belly Dancing may tickle your fancy. Seniors may get a few tips from the Vernon Green’s chair dancing demonstration.

Finding ways to play that promote exercise is only half the formula for keeping our children healthy. Diet and Nutrition are equally important in ensuring children of all ages are physically fit. Cooking at home is often overlooked when talking about proper eating. Studies show that children who eat meals at home are less likely to eat fried, fatty food or overeat. Last year, Post Oil Solutions brought an ABC salad, which stands for apples, beets, and carrots. It’s a fast, healthy dish to make to go along with meals or have on its own as a snack or light lunch. The hospital’s own nutritionist, dieticians and Maple View Cafe’ always have interesting suggestions for tasty, nutritious dishes as well.

If that isn’t enough to get you out of the house there’s also a drawing for a brand new bicycle. What could be more fun than taking that for a spin on the first official weekend of fall!

Wendy Cornwell, RN, is the Director of Community Health & Hospital Education at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.