PORTLAND, Maine — Staying active in the wintertime isn’t a problem for Chris Summers and Tyler Eckford, but for many Portland area youths, the cold weather is incentive to settle down on the couch indoors and watch television or play video games.
“We’re very lucky and very fortunate to play a sport for a living,” said Summers, who like Eckford is a defenseman for the Portland Pirates professional hockey team. “But we can’t stress enough how important it is to stay active.”
The two hockey players came to Lincoln Middle School in their game jerseys Tuesday afternoon to help celebrate the release of three new local exercise videos: Power Up With the Pirates, Rev Up With the Red Claws, and Let’s Dance.
Offering the star power on the latter two videos are members of the Maine Red Claws professional basketball team and Lisa Hicks, dance instructor at Portland Arts & Technology High School, respectively.
The videos are posted on the Portland Public Schools’ YouTube channel, where city and school officials said Tuesday they’ll be accessible to offer easy sports-style workouts during the coldest of winter days — or even between lessons in the classroom when deemed appropriate by teachers.
“When you’re stuck indoors, just click and move,” said Portland Mayor Nicholas Mavodones to a gymnasium crowd of middle schoolers Tuesday.
Mavodones and Portland Public Schools Superintendent James Morse joined the two aforementioned Pirates, school faculty members and the students for a few brief exercises, first following the lead of the hockey video, then with some dance steps from Hicks’ video.
Lincoln Middle School fitness teacher Denise Preisser helped choreograph and produce the sports videos, and she told the Bangor Daily News Tuesday the professional athletes were easy to coach and enthusiastic about giving back to the community.
Morse said there’s not only a health benefit to working out with the new videos but also an academic one.
“Physically active kids are more attentive in the classrooms,” he said, telling the students sitting on the gym floor, “If you’re physically active between your learning sessions, you’ll get more out of those learning sessions.”
The videos were funded in part by a $1.8 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant administered by Healthy Portland, a program of the city Health and Human Services Department’s Public Health Division. Other initiatives funded by the grant money were the installation of two StoryWalk pathways, implementation of salad bars in the schools and working with local restaurants to add calorie information to their menus.