Like Goldilock’s porridge, the elements around a public playground might sometimes be a bit on the cold side.
Maybe it’s snowing. Maybe it’s just too hot for family play time beneath the scalding summer sun.
On the other hand, just inside the Community Center it’s always the perfect weather.
So when Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation decided to localize first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative on Sunday afternoons, the Chapel Hill Community Center gymnasium seemed, well, “juuuust right.”
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“Just when you think everybody would be outside, everyone wants to come inside because they don’t like it outside or maybe it’s too crowded or it’s too hot out,” Community Center director Lisa Baaske said. “Or maybe they start inside here and then want to go outside. Maybe they want to take the bocce balls and go to those courts.”
Through its Sunday afternoon “Family Time,” families are now invited to play together on Sunday afternoons at the center, located at 120 South Estes Drive.
“From 3:15 to 6:30 p.m. the gym will be set aside expressly for parents to spend quality time with their children playing basketball together or jumping rope or hula hooping together,” a release said. “Parents must accompany their children who are 18 years and younger and be actively participating with them.”
In addition to basketballs, hula hoops, and jump ropes, other items will be available depending on the interests of participants. There is no cost to Orange County residents.
Though the gym’s climbing walls are not open during the Family Time, Baaske said families could bring in their own items for play.
“As long as it wouldn’t scratch or damage the gym floor or be dangerous to others in the gym, it’s fine,” she said.
“It’s for kids 18 and under with a parent—the parent has to be actively participating,” Baaske said, “because we’re trying to promote Michelle Obama’s initiative by encouraging families to come out and get healthy. We believe any movement is good movement.”
Launched in 2010, Let’s Moveencourages families across the country to commit to living healthier lives as an effort to get all family members engaged in fighting childhood obesity, which has tripled over the past three decades. Today, nearly one in three children in America are overweight or obese, www.letsmove.gov stated.
“Thirty years ago, most people led lives that kept them at a healthy weight,” the site said. “Kids walked to and from school every day, ran around at recess, participated in gym class, and played for hours after school before dinner. Meals were home-cooked with reasonable portion sizes and ... snacking between meals was an occasional treat.
“Today, walks to and from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym class and after-school sports have been cut; afternoons are now spent with TV, video games, and the internet. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals. Snacking between meals is now commonplace…[and] portion sizes have also exploded.”
Additionally, the average American now eats 15 more pounds of sugar a year than in 1970.
Let’s Move reflects a “call to arms” geared toward inspiring parents to take a more active role in reducing childhood obesity by engaging in healthy family activities and healthier sleeping and nutritional habits.
Baaske said interest in the Family Time sessions has been growing.
“It only started around March 16, but we’ve already seen an increase,” she said. “The first week, about two families came in, and last week, we had anywhere from 12-20 families come in over the course of the entire time. Mostly, the kids have been 12 and under so far, but you never know. Sometimes teens are like, ‘Come on (mom or dad), I’ll take you on.’”
Sabora Washington, who brought her sons Jared and Jamiyal Merchant in to shoot some baskets during Family Time this past Sunday, said she liked that the gym was available.
“We come throughout any season: year round,” Washington said. “They are on a basketball team, so we come in to let them have some downtime. It’s easier on their knees than outside too.”
Baaske said she hoped continued promotion would stir even more interest.
“It’s on our gym schedule and on the town website,” she said. “We’re also trying to spread it through word-of-mouth. Our gym supervisor has been passing flyers around and really trying to promote it. It’s still new, we’re really excited, and people are starting to discover what’s going on.”
Baaske said she was unaware if any other agencies were allocating resources specifically toward the Let’s Move program.
“Technically, we’re all doing it, really,” Baaske said. “But I don’t know of other local initiatives addressing the effort to get families out and exercising together.”
For more information on Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation’s Family Time, call the the Chapel Hill Community Center at (919) 968-2790.
While the Sunday gym Family Time reserves a space and time, any healthy family activity is a great way to “go ahead and make your move,” as any and all movement is a step in the right direction, and that’s “juuuust right.”