Adopting a healthy lifestyle is essential for everyone, but many teenagers and “tweens” today do not know what that entails.
“We work with teens in the community and help them get healthier,” said Phillip Buckenmeyer, who directs the Cortland community’s three-and-a-half-year-old HealthyNOW Teen Program. “Many have no idea how to embrace healthy living and our goal is to teach them to do just that.”
He will discuss this project, which aims to address this concern, on Thursday, May 1, at SUNY Cortland.
Buckenmeyer, who also chairs SUNY Cortland’s Kinesiology Department, will discuss “HealthyNOW Teens in the Cortland Community” from 8 to 9 a.m. in the Park Center Hall of Fame Room.
The talk is part of the College’s ongoing Community Roundtable series, hosted by the President’s Office. The series provides programs on diverse intellectual, regional and cultural topics of interest to College faculty, staff and community members. The roundtables are free and open to the public.
Refreshments will be served at 7:45 a.m. During the roundtable, public parking is available in the Park Center and Professional Studies Building lots.
Buckenmeyer will share how the HealthyNOW program aims to improve the health of local teenagers by providing a safe place to pursue fitness goals alongside other teens and college students.
HealthyNOW for Teens is designed to support teens, generally in grades five to 10, in attaining their fitness goals and improving their quality of life through physical activity, nutrition, community service and mental health components. HealthyNOW gets these teens involved in sports, dance classes, jumping rope, mixed martial arts, yoga, swimming, skating or movement-required video games.
“Many teens spend too much of their time on the computer, playing inactive videogames, or watching television,” says Buckenmeyer.
Students from various SUNY Cortland academic disciplines volunteer to work closely with each youth to develop a daily exercise and fitness schedule that meets his or her needs. Since teenagers are still growing and maturing physically, they need to choose foods that are nutrient-dense.
“We work with the teens to develop small, realistic changes that include reducing sugary drinks, eating smaller portions of sweets and packaged foods, eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and eating smaller portions of all foods more often throughout the day,” Buckenmeyer said.
This program also provides a sense of healthy, positive acceptance and support to teens’ social needs. Another key component of this program is the social interaction and group support that the young people experience as they pursue similar desires to get healthier.
The youths meet from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday during the school year, consistent with college semesters. Generally, a one- or two-week summer session also is offered. Local agencies lend a helping hand for this cause as well.
“The local YMCA and YWCA allow us to use their facilities for our program free of charge,” Buckenmeyer said. “These and other businesses are always willing to give up their time for the cause — helping these kids who don’t know how to properly diet and exercise.”
HealthyNOW Cortland County is supported by the Creating Healthy Places to Live, Work and Play grant, funded by the New York State Department of Health. The state supports many measures to combat childhood health risks including health screenings, community education and surveillance and evaluation of local programs.