Bon Secour has Richmond, Va., kids exercising bodies and brains simultaneously

June 1, 2013


"What's five times seven?"

Rather than raise their hands, third graders at Montrose Elementary School in Richmond, Va. jump on mats — first to the number "3," then "5," to give the correct answer.

The kids aren't being unruly. Jumping on Learnercise Mats is the school component of "movin' mania," a community-wide healthy kids initiative sponsored by Bon Secours Virginia.

"Our hope is to battle childhood obesity and encourage children to change their behavior through healthy eating and exercise," explained Charlotte Perkins, chief performance management officer for Bon Secours Virginia. About one in five Virginia children between the ages of 10 and 17 is overweight or obese, according to a Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth Survey, based on responses of 2,501 youngsters.

"Our community has one of the highest obesity rates in the country," said Perkins. "As a faith-based health system, we feel our children's health is critical. If it doesn't improve, there will be a huge economic impact."

Perkins said Bon Secours used a $250,000 grant from the Richmond Memorial Health Foundation to purchase the mats and corresponding curriculum for several Richmond-area schools. In addition to math skills, the curriculum includes instruction in nutrition and telling time.

Designed by the Orlando, Fla.-based GeoMotion Group, the Learnercise curriculum uses multiple pathways to "wire the brain," in ways GeoMotion said lead to better learning in literacy and math.

"The mats allow educators to incorporate active learning and movement in the classroom," said Perkins, noting that 120 Richmond-area classrooms now use the mats. She hopes to double the number this year with additional fundraising.

Dana Baldacci, principal at Montrose Elementary, said all grade levels at the school, from kindergarten to fifth, use the mats. "They are providing exercise and building energy as well as improving math" skills. "I'm a firm believer that healthy bodies lead to healthy minds. This curriculum seems to be proving that," Baldacci said.

Bon Secours' movin' mania program, launched in June, aims to reach approximately 100,000 children and families at home, at school and in communities across central Virginia. An interactive website,, offers games, healthy recipes and fitness activities for children and their parents. Youngsters also can earn points for making healthy choices and redeem them for prizes, such as sports equipment or tickets to sporting events.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact
Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2013 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.