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Headquarters library to host fitness challenge

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

With a new year right around the corner, the staff of the Clayton County Public Library System's headquarters branch is extending an invitation to local teenagers to come by the library next week to learn how to "Get Ripped!"

The library branch, which is located at 865 Battle Creek Road, in Jonesboro, will host a "Get Ripped! Teen Fitness Challenge" on Monday, from 2 to 3:30 p.m., in which physical activity, and healthy eating habits will be promoted.

There will be an endurance test, where teens can show their peers how many pushups and crunches they can do, as well as fitness-themed games for the youths to play. All of the teens are being asked by library officials to bring a towel with them, to sit on during floor exercises, library Youth Services Assistant Sherry Thomas said.

"I'm really concerned about the youth, and obesity rates," Thomas said. "The youth are our future. If you bring up a generation of unhealthy people, they're going to grow up to make unhealthy decisions."

There is still plenty of space left for local teenagers to sign up for the fitness challenge, according to Thomas. She said there is space for 25 people to participate in the challenge, but only "one or two" teenagers had signed up by Monday. There is no registration fee to participate in the challenge, she said.

Teenagers have until 1:59 p.m., on Monday, to sign up for the challenge, according to Thomas. The only days when teenagers will not be able to sign up for the event are this Thursday and Friday, when the library system is closed for Christmas.

"It can be hard to get teenagers to come to the library for a program," Thomas said. "They usually only come to the library if they are working on a project, or they want to use the Internet. We're trying to come up with ways to get them to come to the libraries more often."

Thomas said the teens will talk about nutrition for the first 30 minutes of the program, and then do an endurance test, which consists of pushups and 20 minutes of abdominal exercises.

She said the teens will play games, such as tug of war, and chair sitting, where the youths will lean against a wall and squat into the same position their bodies would be in if they were sitting in a chair. The youths will also do "Hip-Hop Hops" where a stick is attached to two traffic cones, and the teens have to repeatedly jump back and forth over the stick, according to Thomas.

The youth services assistant said she pulled from her personal-training experiences as a private in the U.S. Army, from 2002 to 2005, to put together the program for the fitness challenge.

One of the traditions of starting a new year is to make a resolution to do something healthy in the new year, such as getting fit and losing weight. And as 2010 is set to begin, teenagers can look back over the last 30 years and see their age group getting weightier as the decades have rolled on.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's web site, the obesity rate for children between the ages of 12 and 19 more than tripled between 1980 and 2006. Five percent of teenagers in America were obese in 1980, compared to 17.6 percent in 2006, according to the web site.

The CDC's web site also reports that only 54 percent of high school students attended physical education classes in 2007. Broken down by grade level, the CDC reports that 40 percent of high school freshmen attended physical education classes daily during that time period, while only 24 percent of high school seniors did the same thing.

"How healthy you are can affect how successful you are, because if you're not healthy, you won't be as productive in life," Thomas said.

Thomas said a simple New Year's resolution is not what she is seeking from the students, because people do not always stick with those promises.

"They shouldn't make it a resolution, it's designed to promote a lifestyle," Thomas said. "If I can prepare them mentally, by talking to them about the benefits of exercise and eating healthy foods, hopefully it will become a a lifestyle and not just something they say they are going to do."

To sign up for the class, interested persons can call the headquarters branch of the library system at (770) 473-3850.