Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic came to the U.S., people have been forced to adapt their lifestyles to spending the majority of their days inside. Children who were once going to school were taken away from in-class education, their friends and a way to stay physically active. Only 23 percent of U.S. children got the recommended one hour of physical activity per day before COVID-19, and with schools closed and everyone cooped up inside, this percentage has likely dropped even lower.
With Michigan having one of highest childhood obesity rates in the country, Pamela Pugh, vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education, said she is worried about how the physical and mental health of children could be negatively impacted.
Pugh said she reached out to Rebecca Hasson, an associate professor of kinesiology and public health and the director of the Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory at the University of Michigan, to see if Hasson’s research with InPACT could help.
InPACT — Interrupting Prolonged Sitting with Activity — was originally intended to be used in school to implement short activity breaks in the classroom to help children with their concentration after a long period of sitting. However, due to schools closing, Hasson adapted InPACT at school to become InPACT at home, a program which provides free videos of instructors doing exercises that kids can follow along to.
“We had a lot of individuals that were reaching out to us that wanted to know — ‘what can we be doing for our children at this time?’” Hasson said. “Because schools were shut down and many of the physical activity opportunities that the children had were eliminated. Not only in school, but you couldn’t go to parks, you couldn’t go to gyms, and so for kids many of them were just sitting at home, playing video games, watching a lot of tv and getting a lot of screen time.”
With no opportunities to stay active with the traditional summer camps or sporting activities, most children have turned to their screens for entertainment. Hasson hopes that InPACT will get kids moving again.
InPACT at home launched on July 6 with three-minute videos showing University students doing various no-equipment exercises in Hasson’s lab. As July continued the videos got progressively longer — up to 15 minutes — and incorporated even more exercises. These first few videos in July are designed to acclimate the children to include InPACT into their routine. On Aug. 1, InPACT plans to put out 20-minute cardio-infused workouts recorded by physical education teachers.
InPACT at home aims to have 250 cardio workouts available with exercises including calisthenics, tabata, circuit, bootcamp, yoga and dance. The videos will be free and can be downloaded on smartphones, tablets and computers.
Rackham student Tiwaloluwa Ajibewa, who worked on InPACT with Dr. Hasson, remains optimistic with InPACT at home and believes that Hasson’s research will continue to make the program easily accessible to everyone.
“With technology, we’ve been sort of given the privilege to be able to adapt … it’s not without its challenges, particularly since some homes may not have … very good wireless internet,” Ajebiwa said. “Others may not even have internet, but I am confident in Dr. Hasson’s work … to find ways to tailor the InPACT at home program to be able to not just reach everyone but to be able to reach everyone in an equitable manner.”
Hasson and her team had some concerns due to InPACT being online instead of in-person, as children may not remain as motivated to continue the program. Additionally, some children do not have internet access so watching the fitness videos may prove to be difficult. However, 90 percent of homes in Michigan do have some sort of smartphone or computer device, and these videos can be downloaded from Vimeo onto the devices.
“It’s not the best option, but we felt it was the option to reach the most kids across the state at the quickest way possible,” Hasson said.
Samantha Wiens-Wice, a physical education teacher at Clarkston High School, has contributed to some of the fitness videos on InPACT. She told The Daily she hopes entire families can do InPACT together to help motivate the children and positively impact the family’s mental and social well-being as a whole.
“Fitness is for every body,” Wiens-Wice said. “Not one word, but two.”
Wiens-Wice said she has adjusted exercises in her videos for people who have different fitness levels that in her videos.
“Having these multiple options for them to see is very helpful,” Wiens-Wice said.
Hanson said she hopes the incorporation of InPACT into the routines of children –– and maybe into entire families –– will help more people adapt to a healthier lifestyle during the pandemic and maybe even after. She said she aims to put InPACT into every single classroom across the state, and plans to continue promoting health and physical well-being.
“I think the message about InPACT is to challenge everyone to think about at during this time when we really need to band together, how can we come together to not only improve the health and wellness of our children, but of the children and their families, and just as individuals to get Michigan moving again?” Hasson said.
Daily Contributor Cynthia Huang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.