Unique PE program prompts some high schoolers to enjoy exercise

Unique PE program prompts some high schoolers to enjoy exercise for 1st time

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Josh Smith works out on resistance training equipment like a pro. Josh Smith works out on resistance training equipment like a pro.
Deanna Rickerman's favorite part of the PE programs is the virtual fitness options. Deanna Rickerman's favorite part of the PE programs is the virtual fitness options.
In suspension training, students build their muscles. In suspension training, students build their muscles.
Dijon Andrews has lost 25 pounds since school started. Dijon Andrews has lost 25 pounds since school started.

By ERICA ESTEP
6 News Education Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Knox County high school known for exercising the mind is also getting creative to exercise the body.

The L&N STEM Academy was created to boost the study of science, engineering, technology and math and preparing students for careers in those disciplines.

The school doesn't even have a gym, but that's not keeping students from getting fit. They have a one-of-a-kind physical fitness program that's getting some interested in exercise for the first time.

"Going to STEM, that's the last thing I expected was getting fit," said freshman Josh Smith. The 15-year-old said exercise and sports weren't even on his radar. "At a typical high school, I was that one kid that you didn't want to pick for your basketball team."

But Josh has had a transformation since the beginning of the school year. We found him working out on resistance training equipment like a pro in on of the school's studio rooms. "I like that you can choose what you want to do," he said.

It was like a beehive of activity in one of the small rooms. Some students were dancing. Some were boxing. Others were working on resistance bands suspended from the ceiling. 

"We didn't have a whole lot of space here at the school so we were challenged with, what's the most we could do with the smallest amount of space," explained Dr. Jeff Knox, STEM and PE teacher.

Students were exercising wall to wall, all choosing the activities they prefer. And of course, technology plays a big role, even in exercise.

"It's really neat having the Xbox Kinect," said 14-year-old freshman Deanna Rickerman. "It's active learning, but a teacher doesn't really need to be active in it."

Rickerman is an athlete, who runs track and cross country, but her favorite part of the PE programs is the virtual fitness options, like video boxing. "I like being able to physically, like actively participate in the sport, without really hurting anybody," she said with a laugh.

Knox gave us a run down of some of the exercise options available at school. "They can work out with the Xbox, and we have some fitness games there. We have suspension training, which is where they can build their muscles, and their endurance, while working out their core through those strength building exercises. We have stretch bands and workout bands. We also have fitness dance, yoga and Pilates," he said.

The students also get outside to exercise at World's Fair Park, and a short walk over the downtown pedestrian bridge gets them to the YMCA. There the students are exposed to weight lifting and a variety of other exercise options.

"We have a swimming pool there," said Rickerman. "A lot of us go and play basketball. The YMCA is just incredible."

Dijon Andrews does a cross training circuit at the YMCA. "I work out on the treadmill,  stationary bike, elliptical, things like that. Then I like to lift weights sometimes," he said.

Andrews says he never thought of exercise as fun before, but he describes this program as life changing. The 15-year-old has lost 25 pounds since school started.

"This has definitely changed my outlook on PE and fitness in general," he said. "I feel like I can keep going and lose more weight and then just hit my goals and know that like anything is possible."

Dijon's favorite exercise is a virtual dancing game that gets him moving with his friends. It's a real success story that is echoed by his classmates.

"I feel great too," Josh Smith added. "This class has given me the chance to exercise more and actually start working out to where I'm strong, and I'm starting to catch up to some of my friends, where I can hang out with them and play sports or whatever."

The STEM students each have individualized fitness plans that they track on their iPads. They can also use work out equipment during their free time.

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