Motion Peers Reaching Others Through Motion

Through its P.R.O.Motion program, James Madison University is not only teaching elementary and middle school students about the importance of exercise, it’s laying the groundwork for lifestyle change. The program, which began in the fall of 1996, focuses on building self-esteem at a young age and relating feelings of self-confidence with being healthy. “With the sense of self-worth, individuals can gain the power to make positive lifestyle choices,” says Kirsten Ryan, coordinator of aerobics and wellness for the university’s recreation program.

P.R.O.Motion grew out of an earlier outreach program called the Aerobics Demo Team, a performance group whose basic aim was to promote the university’s aerobics program and entertain students. When recreation staff noticed they were making an impact with their program, they decided to modify their approach to reach kids at an earlier age, and to focus on promoting healthful lifestyle habits through improved self-esteem.

“Self-esteem is the key to wellness,” Ryan adds. “How we feel about ourselves influences the decisions we make in life. Also, it is important to understand our minds, as well as our bodies, in order to achieve total-body wellness.”

The P.R.O.Motion team, which visits elementary and middle schools in the Harrisonburg, Va., area, is comprised of 10 instructors who represent all shapes and sizes and who are examples of healthy living. A typical program begins with the team-designed P.O.S.I.T.I.V.E. self-esteem model.

The acronym stands for: Prioritize and set goals; Overcome opposition; Set boundaries by saying no; Instill a positive attitude; Take opportunities; Internally accept yourself; Value others; and Evaluate and follow through.

Since the program began, the recreation staff has been invited back to every school it has performed for, and has received 10 requests from local schools in the last year. In addition to promoting exercise and self-confidence, Ryan says the program has generated great publicity for the university’s new fitness center, while also helping kids get excited about higher education. That’s what we call nourishing both the mind and body!