Yoga & Push-ups: Getting Active at Fannie Battle Day Home

Guest post by youth volunteer Hui Cheng —

It’s workout time at Fannie Battle Day Home for Children! This semester, the youth and I have embarked on a fitness adventure to combat childhood inactivity, and so far, everyone has loved every moment of it.

In the several months I’ve spent as a Fannie Battle intern, it’s been particularly important for me to introduce healthy physical activities that the kids can easily remember and replicate at home – because it’s shocking to learn how little time most spend being active.

Hui and the Fannie Battle kids play a game of "Human Knot."

With the rising popularity of addicting video games and the Internet, most youth just don’t think that going outside and exercising can be very enjoyable – or very important. Some of my youth don’t live near friends whom they can play with, and many have already-busy parents who just don’t have the time to greatly emphasize the importance of exercise.

Keeping those factors in mind, I decided to start the year with an activity that was fun and could be done on one’s own time – yoga. When I introduced the poses, however, I wasn’t surprised to receive a series of odd looks from my class.

“What on earth is a downward-facing dog?”

“I can’t twist my arms far enough this Eagle pose!”

Yet, as we moved through cycles of Sun Salutations, lunged in Warrior poses and struggled to balance as Trees, we grew gigglier and sillier. (Check out these photos of the kids busting out some yoga moves!) At the end of the class, the youth voted to have a yoga show-and-tell; each of us would teach the rest of the class our favorite pose. When I left, I knew I wouldn’t have to ask them to keep exercising when they got home; they were already repeating the movements on their own. “This is fun! Can we do this again?” a girl asked.

Preparing for the day's activities!

When I returned this month, my class was again eager to learn and eager to exercise. While everyone last week had enjoyed yoga, this week’s workout – a mini bootcamp – appealed much more to the boys. We did push-ups and tricep push-ups, V-ups and crunches, and even hopped around the room in a series of jumping squats.

“Will muscles help me get girls?” a boy jokingly asked.

We all laughed, but I couldn’t help feeling that he had touched on something vital. When I went home from Fannie Battle this Friday, I waved goodbye to the same cries of, “Can we do this again? This was fun!” But this time, I left with a new idea in mind. So far, all of my efforts were intended to persuade youth that fitness was essential to healthy living.  But perhaps, as this young man had mentioned, it could be linked to something more. Perhaps it was necessary to motivate my kids to exercise by pointing out how cardio workouts could help them run faster in soccer, or how doing push-ups would develop their biceps and help them pitch a ball faster in baseball.

Perhaps making fitness relevant to everyday activities could be more persuasive to youth than mere health and fitness alone – and in next month’s lesson, I hope to transform this young boy’s words into inspiration.

Hui Cheng, a senior at Martin Luther King Academic Magnet School, is one of 12 HON Youth Volunteer Corps Interns, serving in the inaugural 2011-2012 class. Each month, she plans and leads a fitness and nutrition focused activity that engages the children served by the Fannie Battle Day Home For Children after-school program. Hands On Nashville is now accepting applications for the 2012-13 YVC Internship program. Read more and download an application.

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