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LEANing into Healthy Habits

LEAN program helps children become more fit.

Small rural schools facing budget challenges often have to eliminate funding for the physical education classes that help kids stay healthy and active. Under the umbrella of the Felician Wellness Program and supported by Hopebound Ministries, the LEAN (Learning Exercise and Nutrition) program provides funding for these schools to adopt evidence-based learning programs that can adapt to any classroom.

LEAN provides fun lessons and assessments based on individual goal-setting, allowing students and teachers to create plans to meet fitness benchmarks by incorporating movement all through the school day and collecting data to support their efforts. LEAN gives students opportunities to move loudly, joyfully, and often, improving both their overall health and their school outcomes.

Executive Director of Hopebound Ministries, Jill Wiles Wolf explains that for older children, LEAN gives a fuller picture of health than just exercise – showing them that sleep, relationships, and media use all impact their overall well-being.

LEAN is currently being used at 5 public elementary schools in Centralia, IL, for a total of about 900 kids in kindergarten through 8th grade. The Villa Maria Youth Program in Buffalo, NY, and the Mooncrest Neighborhood Programs in Coraopolis, PA both use after school versions of LEAN.

LEAN has increased the number of students meeting fitness standards from 69% to 85%. Tim Koch, a North Wamac phys ed teacher and LEAN coordinator for Centralia schools, says, “Our students enjoyed the activities and looked forward to PE class every day! We saw an increase in all areas of the LEAN program, including flexibility, physical strength, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular endurance.”

LEAN does more than just increase kids’ activity levels. The accompanying goal-setting and teamwork provide additional social and emotional benefits to students. Kids compete against their previous selves, becoming mentally and physically stronger in the process. Classrooms or schools can create “teams” and then work toward collective goals in which each individual helps the group’s overall fitness level.

Given the measurable success of the program, the Hopebound Ministries team is excited about its potential to be replicated. “We are still working on what an expansion of the program might look like,” says Wiles Wolf. 

LEAN is sponsored by Hopebound Ministries, a Felician ministry that supports select fledgling social service programs that were founded by Felician Sisters, as they pursue sustainable long-term growth and deepening community impact. Learn more about the Felician Wellness Program and Hopebound Ministries here.