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Jumping for Heart Health

To Mary Amsbury, a physical education teacher with Comstock Public Schools, February means one thing: time to jump rope.

Jumping rope is a staple of the Kids Heart Challenge, a nationwide effort by the American Heart Association to teach children about the importance of their heart health and to raise money for children with special hearts. The week-long event looks different at every school, but often includes jump rope challenges, and is always in February, which is American Heart Month. This year, many students may be learning from home but they can still jump rope and other activities to stay active.

Children gather for a school assembly
Photo from Feb. 2020’s Kids Heart Challenge

For nearly 30 years of her 34-year-career, Amsbury has been coordinating Kids Heart Challenge weeks with her students. Now she teaches at Comstock STEM Academy, a K-8 program, and continues to bring her passion for heart health to her students.

“Heart disease runs in my family and my husband’s family,” Amsbury said.

She uses jump ropes and scooters to teach her students about the mechanics of physical exercise – like why it makes you sweat – and about the benefits, especially for their mental health.

“I’m trying to stress that with my students to realize that the way you take care of your life is how healthy you’re going to end up being,” Amsbury said.

Amsbury said her students are particularly motivated to participate in the fundraiser when she tells them how their donations can make a difference.

Three students pose in front of a poster at school
Photo from Feb. 2020’s Kids Heart Challenge

“For every $50 they raise, the American Heart Association can train someone in CPR. I told them they’ve raised $3,500 so far – with that, we could save 64 people,” Amsbury said. “They really felt the impact of that.”

In total, Amsbury’s school raised $5,565.40 this year for the American Heart Association – their biggest-ever total.

“I am so proud of our students and parents for supporting this great cause,” Amsbury said.

The lessons learned in the Kids Heart Challenge can be applied at home too. Getting active as a family has tremendous benefits, both for children and their parents.

Here are some tips from the American Heart Association on how to be more active at home:

  • Identify free time for activity during the week
  • Plan to add physical activity to your routine every day
  • Be active with your children: develop go-to activities to play together
  • Limit screen time
  • Plan TV watching in advance, and keep watching limited to only certain shows

Comstock STEM Academy is also a participant of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s Building Healthy Communities: Step Up for School Wellness program. Learn more about all Building Healthy Communities programs here

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