McLean High Promises Healthy Lifestyles

McLean High Promises Healthy Lifestyles

Students learn about nutrition and relaxation at school's "Health and Wellness" event.

Brian Payne was always aware that there was sugar in Gatorade — he just never realized quite how much.

"I knew it, but I've just never really seen an image of it before," said Payne, a freshman at McLean High School. "I drink a lot of it."

Payne was able to see a visual of the exact sugar content of his favorite sports drink at McLean High School's second annual "Health and Wellness Days" event. At the Inova Health System table, there were displays of popular drink and snack items, and in front of each drink was a plastic ziplock bag filled with the amount of sugar in the drink. Most of the bags were close to full.

"They tend to find a lot of surprise in the sugar content of Gatorade," said Megan Podboy, prevention coordinator with Inova Health System. "We're showing them the various products in vending machine devices, and how they can make smart choices."

Sponsored by the McLean High School Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA), the two-day Health and Wellness event took place on March 7 and 8. During all lunch periods on March 7, students were able to participate in mini-sessions of pilates, meditation and kick-boxing. In addition, 3-minute chair massages and advice on nutrition and sleep were also offered.

Susan Belardi, a fitness instructor and personal trainer, organized the event. She has two children, one of whom is a graduate of McLean High School , and one who whom is currently enrolled.

"The idea behind it is to get students who are not active in sports, and who are more sedentary, to learn new ideas about health and wellness and exercise," said Belardi.

Brian Payne said that as someone who is moderately active, he found the event to be really interesting and informative.

"I do swimming, but that's only two seasons out of the year," said Payne.

THE PTSA ALSO ARRANGED for several speakers for Wednesday evening, March 8. The topics were stress, depression and eating disorders, three things that Belardi says the PTSA has noticed are on the rise among students.

"These are issues that students and parents want to address," said Belardi.

This rang true with Shannon David, a junior, who participated in a 5-minute pilates session at the event. David said she enjoyed the pilates lesson, and that she would definitely like to take a full class, particularly since it was a good way to lose some weight. When asked if losing weight was a source of stress, David and her friends all responded with a resounding yes.

"It's one of the main things," said David. "There is so much pressure to be skinny."

David added that she would not mind having Health and Wellness days on a more frequent basis.

"I think it's great," said David. " You learn about food, you get to exercise, you get to relax. I think we should do this every day."

Jessica Warburton of the Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders in Chevy Chase, Md., monitored an information table during the March 7 lunch periods. She spent time explaining the different stages of sleep to students.

"Sleep is important," said Warburton. "You need about eight and a half to nine and a half hours of sleep when you are in high school, and different stages of sleep provide different things."

According to her, REM sleep helps the brain to learn, which is why cramming for tests is not an effective strategy. Warburton also informed students that stages 3 and 4 of the sleep process "help to rejuvenate the body."

"So if you play sports, you need those stages because you have to heal your body on a daily basis," she said.

Listening to students at her table, Warburton said one thing was clear.

"Nobody seems to get enough sleep," she said. "I heard a lot of people say that they have too much to do for school to get enough sleep."

IN ADDITION to finding out information about nutrition and health, students were able to engage in a variety of relaxing activities, including massage therapy and meditation.

"Everybody seems to enjoy it," said Lance Landseadel, of Northern Virginia Massage Therapists. "I've done about 30 so far, but will probably give about 50 by the time I'm through."

The relaxation activities seemed to work well on freshman Mateo Henry.

"I got a massage and did meditation," said Henry. "I am so relaxed right now — I have no stress and everybody is my friend."

His friend Kevin Soheili, also a freshman, participated in the Buddhist meditation.

"He had us relax our face, then we relaxed our arms, our shoulders and our back," said Soheili. "It felt really good."