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With Michigan schools moving online in March, many students lost their daily exercise outlet. 

Recently, the University of Michigan started an initiative to help kids stay active at home. 

The university created the InPACT at Home program, an online, free-use initiative designed to be a year-long, daily routine. The program is headed by Rebecca Hasson, associate professor of kinesiology and nutritional health and director of the Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory.

"We wanted to translate exercise to the home environment," Hasson said. "Generally, kids get most of their exercise at school, whether that's because of PE, recess or even just walking to school. That was all taken away because of COVID."

In May, Hasson was approached by Pamela Pugh, vice president of the Michigan Board of Education, to head the initiative.  

A full lockdown came with rising concerns of obesity, especially for children, Pugh said. Without a primary outlet for activity, children of all ages were left to their own devices for exercise.

"Usually, your home isn't where you burn calories," Hasson added. "It's where you consume them."

The initiative has produced a video series available to anyone who wishes to participate in the program, though it is primarily aimed at students ages K-12, Hasson said. Anyone in Michigan or the rest of the U.S. can access the videos for no charge. 

"As soon as you put a cost on the service, someone is excluded," Hasson said. "This is an all-inclusive program."

Michigan organizations have long been promoting healthy living and exercise to combat the rising cases of obesity in the Great Lakes State.

Data at Michigan.gov shows 32.1% of the state's adults are obese. And with minors being kept inside for safety reasons, Pugh and Hasson knew that obesity would only be an ever-increasing issue. 

"I called around to a few different places and eventually connected with Professor Hasson," Pugh said. "She's been one of the primary players for the InPACT at Home program." 

Since then, UM has been producing the videos. 

PE teachers will be the primary focus, showing kids how to exercise through circuit training, yoga, bootcamp and tabata, a high-intensity interval training exercise. These exercises can be done in a family room, a backyard or even a driveway, Hasson added. 

"Exercise helps every part of the human body," Hasson said. "Physical and mental. And children are experts with technology, so videos were the best option."

Throughout the lockdown, the social-emotional health of kids has been affected greatly, Hasson added. Physical exercise can help in alleviating that unhealthy balance. 

The first few videos were designed to be short and easy to follow, only lasting about three minutes in full runtime. But by the peak of the program, videos could be as long as 20 minutes, Hasson said. 

Over 1.5 million Michigan kids have been out of school since lockdown, Hasson added, and this program is intended to help all of them. The goal is to produce 250 videos throughout the next year. One video a day, five days a week — the equivalent of being at school. 

The videos are also meant to be entertaining. InPACT at Home welcomes feedback from viewers of all ages, to ensure that the videos are interesting for kids to view. Without an entertaining program, kids may begin to lose interest.  

"Kids should be getting the minimum amount of daily exercise," Hasson said. "That's 60 minutes per day. This program was designed to encourage kids to do just that."

Even after schools reopen, InPACT at Home is designed to help kids achieve this daily exercise standard.

Hasson and Pugh noted their support from various organizations and companies in Michigan. The University of Michigan and Wayne State professors, the Michigan Public Health Institute, the Detroit Tigers and other organizations have been very supportive of the initiative, according to Hasson. 

"It's just amazing," Hasson said. "I'm just in awe of how many people around the state are helping with this program."

More resources regarding the InPACT at Home program can be found at the University of Michigan's Exercise and Sports Science Initiative website

sjjones@detroitnews.com

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