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Improving health and wellness in Tamaqua

The district was selected for a wellness grant based on the high number of students struggling with obesity, stressing the importance of exercise.

TAMAQUA, Pa. — Dozens of students at Tamaqua Area High School hang out in the weight room at 6 a.m. every day. It's not for a class or practice but a new initiative funded through the School Wellness Grant Program.

Tamaqua was one out of three school districts in Pennsylvania hand-picked for the grant to expand opportunities for students to exercise outside of gym class or a sports team.

"We don't want them to do it for a grade; we want them to understand the importance of cardiorespiratory endurance, how to hit target heart rate zones, so you can maintain fitness or improve in the long run," said Jim McCabe, Health And Physical Education department head.

From swimming and weightlifting to biking and running, the school district is making its facilities more inviting for students who aren't already a part of the athletic department emphasizing exercise is for everyone.

"For some people who just do extracurricular activities that aren't in sports, they look at the workouts as if it's a stressful thing and that it looks like another class that they have to take," said junior Adam Bachert.

It's also benefiting student-athletes, helping them stay in shape during the off-season.

"It's so much easier to go ask someone you already know for a spot. If you're at a gym, you have no idea who the other people are, and it's a lot more nerve-wracking. So, it's really nice and comfortable with people that you know," senior Hailey Williams said.

Denny Krell says he couldn't do a push-up before joining the wellness program, and now he is seeing results.

"Compared to looking at pictures from almost a year ago till now, you can definitely see how I've improved if you saw me a year ago," he said.

What started as a pair of students working out before school has grown into more than 30 students coming in early or staying after school every day.

"There's so many more people coming now than there was before in the earlier months, so I think we're just going see more increase," said senior Gianni Valentine.

Tamaqua Area High School hopes to expand its programs and open them up to the rest of the community next year.

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