"I pledge… my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world."
In 2012, Warrick County 4-H clubs put the pledge into action with the 4-H 60 Challenge, a program to increase physical activity among today's youth. All 20 the county’s 4-H clubs participated, with members also challenging their friends and family — and in one case even the family dog — to join in. Purdue Extension-Boone County had a similar program.
"Each year the 4-H programs throughout Indiana adopt a program as part of 4-H's healthy living pledge," says Carla Kidwell, 4-H youth development educator for Purdue Extension-Warrick County. "Our 4-H Council bought each club a pair of ExerDice foam dice, one with numbers and the other with activities, such as running in place or doing sit-ups. Leaders used the activity icebreakers and during recreation time at meetings."
Club members were encouraged to complete at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day and to track their minutes. The program became a county-wide competition to see which club could record the most minutes. Newsletters suggested ways to incorporate exercise throughout the day.
"Physical activity is one of the best ways for kids to stay healthy," says Brenda Hachmeister, leader of the county's Degonia 4-H Club and a school nurse for Warrick County Schools. As one of the county's largest clubs, Hachmeister has to design activities for all ages.
Some Degonia members, like Ian Randolph, 15, incorporated the challenge into his athletic training program.
"Exercising with friends made it fun because we pushed each other hard and challenged ourselves to beat each other, but my favorite thing was watching the younger kids have fun," he says. Randolph also got his family involved. "We competed to see who could run the most miles in a month. We all got healthier and had fun doing it."
Elizabeth Lewis, 16, incorporated the challenge into her everyday activities, including swim team and taking care of her 4-H animals.
"I encouraged my dad to help with my animals and made an attempt to cut back on the fried food," she says. "Exercising with my club made it a lot of fun and knowing that it was for a competition made it all the more fun. My favorite part of it was that I could keep on doing my exercises when the challenge was over."
Dedication from Degonia members resulted in a win for the club, but it paid off for all 4-H members who participated with a total of 46,000 minutes logged. At the end of the challenge, 4-H clubs took the message to the community at the Warrick County 4-H fair, where members and their families participated in fitness activities, including sponsoring a 4k run.