H-ARROYO GRANDE

Jun 14, 2011 12:21 PM by Carina Corral

High school fitness class helps students struggling with weight get in shape

The social pressures of high school can be tough on kids, especially if they are fighting with their weight.

Well, some Arroyo Grande High School students say a class this past school year changed all that for them.

"This class has immensely changed my life," said Junior Brittany Farrell, who lost 17 pounds.

"I'm a more confident person. I get better grades," that's what Sophomore Joseph McGuire, who lost 30 pounds, said about the fitness class.

"I feel way better about myself. I'm much happier than I used to be," said Sophomore Olivia Ross about what the class that helped her lose 35 pounds did for her confidence.

Together this group of 7 students lost 169 pounds during the course of the school year.

No, not with some miracle weight loss pill, but through sweat and tears thanks to a fitness class started up last year by a teacher who thought students might do better working out with other students who share a common struggle.

"If we're running with someone who has weight issues like myself it's a lot easier to run than next to someone who can lap me three times," said Gail Varvel, the class instructor.

The students work out together five days a week, combining cardio, strength training and stretching.

Varvel said she kept the students motivated by switching up their routines, having weekly weigh-ins, and monthly prizes for the 'biggest loser.' The results speak for themselves.

"I can do push-ups. I have more upper body strength and I can run a 9:45 mile instead of a 15 minute mile," said Farrell.

They are also learning to eat right and teaching their parents a thing or two about nutrition.

"My family has started to change their ways, too, and eat healthier," said Sophomore Jessica Williams, who lost 33 pounds in the class.

Each student from this particular group has lost between 10-35 pounds and each vowed this is a lesson that will last well beyond the school year.

There are two classes with 60 students total and they are not only for students who struggle with their weight. All students are encouraged to join.

Much of the program's success is being credited with community support.

Arroyo Grande Community Hospital awarded the program a $10,000 grant to purchase exercise equipment and Running Warehouse gave every student a new pair of running shoes.

Atasacdero and Paso Robles High Schools offer a similar life fitness class.

Santa Maria high schools do not, according the to district office.

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