Podcast: Sanford Fit builds active waiting rooms

Climbing walls and dance videos get kids up and out of their seats

Sanford Fit Kids Zone at Great Shots features and blue and gold climbing wall, interactive floor, TV and "move, play, recharge" on the wall.

Episode Transcript

Jacqueline Palfy (Host): Hi, I’m Jacqueline Palfy, here with Sanford Health. Today, I’m speaking with Amy Baete, the director of Sanford Fit. Welcome Amy.

Amy Baete (Guest): Hi, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Host: Absolutely. So, we are here to talk a little bit the Sanford Fit program which is — it’s been around for about 10 years, is that right?

Amy: Yeah, that’s right.

Host: So, tell me a little bit about what it is exactly.

Amy: So, Sanford Fit is the children’s health and fitness initiative. So, it was one of the original six initiatives funded by Denny Sanford’s philanthropy and we actually work to provide free educational resources to help parents, educators, and the community educate their kids on healthy choices and healthy behaviors.

Host: Give me an example of what one of those materials might look like.

Amy: Yeah, so, most of our materials are designed for educators and teachers in the classroom to use as slideshows, fun videos, and activation strategies and brain breaks for kids.

Host: Brain breaks for kids sounds awesome. I know that at my daughter’s school for example, they stop, and they pick a song and then they can dance around the room for a little bit.

Amy: That’s a great example of a brain break. And we actually like to refer to them as brain boosts because the point of doing a brain break in a classroom setting is actually to get the kids up and out of their seats, get the blood pumping because we know that that leads to better education.

Host: And I think we all know that even in our own lives like if you just get up and walk a get a drink of water or do something and just step away for a minute you can recharge.

Amy: Yes, exactly.

Host: I know we were talking a little bit earlier about (how) we both have little kids; my kiddos are 9 and 11 and how old are yours?

Amy: So, I’m a mom of two. I have a son who is 5 and a daughter who is 3 and a really rambunctious Weimaraner so, he’s my third fur baby.

Host: Absolutely. So, we know how hard it can be to find ways to keep kids active. I mean I see that in my own life.

Amy: It’s true. I’m the same and even working with this program, I still sometimes find it challenging at home especially during the winter months to make sure that my kids are not spending too much time in front of screens or laying around and so it’s really important to keep them active and you’re right, sometimes it’s easier to take that path of least resistance for the kids.

Host: So, with I’m looking for a little bit of inspiration and I often am, right, because by February you are just like let’s all just watch TV for a while. I can’t. I’m out of creativity. But I could come onto the Sanford Fit is a web — partly a website where I could look at some of this, right?

Amy: You’re right. So, all of our materials that we provide are actually hosted on our new website and so everything is free for anyone who wants to go there and so, even though a lot of the materials are really focused on classroom education; as a parent, you can actually go online, and you can find fun recipes to do at home with your family.

You can find brain breaks. You can even find free yoga videos which is something my kids love — yoga. They can be anything they want. So, we love tree pose and we love warrior and dancer and all those types of things. So, there’s all kinds of stuff no matter if you are a parent or a grandparent or even just looking for some music for the little kids too.

Host: I think that’s awesome. I know that probably a lot of us have done some yoga in our living room or done different exercises. We have like a little hallway area in our house that seems to be the best spot to do this. I don’t know why. But you’re exactly right, the kids will see that and then they want to do that with you because they want to be around you while you are doing it.

Amy: Exactly, and it’s for the whole family regardless of your level or your ability. I tell people everyone can stretch and do those mindful movements and you can have fun with it, too.

Host: Absolutely. I know that for my daughter, she — there was some weightlifting thing I was doing, and she started to do it and she said, this is too hard to do with this weight so, I’m just going to move my arms around. I was like I think that’s pretty good too.

Amy: And that’s a great sort of positive self-talk for your daughter so kudos to you that you’ve instilled that in her. We talk a lot about growth mindset in that we can all do hard things and even just moving throughout the day in whatever way you can is a step in the right direction.

Host: And that’s really a goal of Sanford Fit.

Amy: It really is, yeah. You know the goal of the program and our mission is really to instill in children the ability to make healthy decisions and set them up for success throughout their entire life. So, it’s less about telling them yes you can or no you can’t and more about giving them the education that they need to understand what are the healthy choices.

And so, at the point of choice, for us as the Fit team, we see success when we hear from parents that you know what, my child today chose white milk instead of chocolate milk and so for us, that’s one step in the right direction.

Host: That is definitely a challenge sometimes to see all the different choices and make the right one. One of the things we talked a little bit about is how Sanford Fit is trying to help kids figure this out and help educators teach them how to do this and parents can access it as well. And what that really does is drive population health, right? Is that fair to say?

Amy: Absolutely.

Host: And I think sometimes people don’t know exactly what population health is. Do you have a quick definition you give people?

Amy: In terms of Sanford Fit, what we’re interested in is preventative care and so, at Sanford, as a leader in health care, it’s important that we take intentional actions for preventative care for our kids. Our kids are our stakeholders just as much as our adult patients are and so, for us population health is really about taking this generation and the generations that come after them and improving health outcomes. That’s probably a longer answer than you wanted.

Host: No, I don’t think so. I think that’s exactly right and to remember like you said that these kids are our patients or potential patients and we don’t want them to be patients for things we can — that they don’t have to be.

Amy: A hundred percent and that was the original intent with Sanford Fit. When it started 10 years ago, we were really focused preventing type 2 diabetes, but it really has morphed into something more. I mean we really have a population health sort of epidemic on our hands.

We’re seeing youth depression rates on the rise, we are seeing obesity, prediabetes in our kids and so we’ve just really got to be intentional about some of the things that we do with our programming and provide opportunities and alternatives for our kids.

Host: You mentioned this, and it reminded me that when I was looking at the Sanford Fit site, I saw that there were things on managing your emotions or mental health and that is amazing to me. I’m so happy to see us addressing that.

Amy: Yeah. It’s really unique about Sanford Fit. A lot of programs that are available and there’s a lot of good things out there that we can use as parents. But what makes Fit unique is really that we don’t just talk about physical activity and eating nutritious food, because those are important but we also raise up that getting enough sleep at night and learning how to sort of relax without screens and understanding and self-regulating our emotions are just as important.

And really, if you can regulate your emotions and make healthy choices when it comes to physical activity and food, that’s the point of being fit. It’s just about understanding how all of those pieces fit together and emotional health, social-emotional learning is really on the top of a lot of subjects right now.

Host: Well and we talked a little bit about this earlier but you can teach someone as much as possible but when you’re a child you only have control over so much of your life but you have all the control over how you feel or how you react and if you think about how much better we’d all be if we were a little bit better at that as adults. And when I was a kiddo, that wasn’t really talked about as much. I just think that’s astonishing.

Amy: I couldn’t agree with you more. I think this generation has a better opportunity because more people are talking about it. I’m in the same boat you are. It just wasn’t something we talked about in school or at home. It was more about English, and math and science and some of the hard subjects but social-emotional learning is really about talking about feelings and understanding them and it’s not a subject that we teach in schools.

So, my son doesn’t have fourth period social-emotional learning, we’re going to talk about our feelings, but it’s about infusing that into physical education, science class or whatever you are doing in your room. And it’s about empowering kids to understand that their feelings and emotions are valid and they’re important and it’s okay to get mad or to be silly. It’s just not okay to treat others poorly because you are angry or feeling silly.

Host: Absolutely. That’s a good lesson for all of us today.

So, I know that Sanford Fit is part of the innovations team and we’ve done a lot of podcasts about innovations and looked at all the different ways that when you bring different people together in a company, you bring the company in a different direction. So, tell me a little bit about how that has been working for you.

Amy: So, this is one of the most exciting things that we’ve been able to do. So, just as a mom, right, and in my position with this group, you start to see opportunities and your wheels start to turn and so as a mom, taking my kids in to the Sanford Clinic for well child visits, what I saw in my clinic was a space that was provided for children and it had two small chairs and a TV set. And I just thought there has to be a better way.

And sometimes when you are in the waiting room for 15 to 20 minutes with healthy children, or you are there with a sick child and maybe another healthy child, there’s just not a lot to entertain them or keep them busy unless you are going to put a screen in front of them whether it’s a phone or a TV.

Host: And we’ve all done it.

Amy: A hundred percent. Absolutely. And so, it’s just about providing an alternative to that. And so, as I sat in some meetings with some of our leaders here at Sanford, we started to think about how can we think outside the box and how can we be innovative. And so, a couple of opportunities really presented themselves in 2019 and one of those was at one of our clinics over on 26th and Sycamore and they were remodeling the space, updating furniture. And I said what if we did something different in the children’s waiting areas space?

And so, sometimes the path of least resistance is to put in a TV, comfortable seating and iPads because iPads are everywhere. So, we just thought why not provide an alternative? So, if we take some of the iPads and screens out, what do kids like to do when they are waiting or when they are bored? They like to run around and play.

So, we actually had the opportunity to design an interactive play space that’s castle themed over at the clinic and we’re installing a movement and sensory path in that area so now when kids come into that clinic, they are going to see a safe place to play and have fun and use their imagination. And so, that was really an opportunity for us to integrate with the clinic side and provide an example of what we can do if we start to think about this a little bit differently.

Host: Sort of a little by little becomes a lot, right?

Amy: Absolutely and it’s one example. We actually — we had another amazing opportunity with the new Great Shots facility that just opened and so again, we had a place where we are sitting around a table, talking with leaders about what the kids area could be or should be in that space.

And what could have just been another arcade for kids turned into something amazing. And so with leadership we said we have to think differently and we have to promote health and wellness in kids. And an arcade just isn’t on brand with that, that’s not —

Host: That’s not our mission.

Amy: It’s not our mission. Absolutely, Jacqueline. So, we again, we sat down, and we just decided we were going to be intentional about this and we wanted to promote a safe, fun, healthy place for kids.

So, when you go to Great Shots with your family, you can golf and you can eat but your kids can also do a climbing wall. There’s an interactive beam system on the floor that they can play. We even have programming up on the TV that promotes yoga and dancing and different things like that. So, it’s a place to get the wiggle out but it’s also a place for adults to have fun with their kids too.

Host: Well and I just want you to know honestly part of me thinks oh my gosh, I can have a conversation with my husband at a restaurant and send the kids over there. Is that OK?

Amy: You absolutely can. And it’s a place where you just don’t have to worry about what they’re doing in there and maybe what devices are in there.

So, it’s an accomplishment and I think it’s something Sanford should be proud of and these are the types of things where we really are making intentional decisions to move the needle on children’s wellness. Which is what’s really important to us at Fit, is that if we just start taking small steps towards these changes — iPads are great, right, and there’s a lot of technology that’s available to our kids — but if we can provide an alternative in our own spaces, that is an accomplishment.

Host: I absolutely agree with that. I agree with that as an employee of Sanford and as a mom. And again, we talked about sitting in a clinic and I was telling you I found a photo of my daughter from a few years ago where she just looks so angry and it’s because I was taking my son, he was sick and she just did not want to be there and she was crabby and think about the break that could give you as a mom if you could hold the child who is maybe there for an illness and let the healthy child go and play. Everyone’s a little bit happier and that just feels great to me that that’s what we’re doing.

Amy: Absolutely. It’s the right thing to do. You’re right as a mom when I see installations or places for my kids to play; I just think it’s awesome and there are so many opportunities for us as parents to provide them to our kids.

Host: Well I think it’s wonderful and exactly what we want Sanford Fit to do and Sanford Innovations and just our mission of health and healing.

Amy: Yeah, awesome.

Host: Thank you so much for coming today to talk with us.

Amy: You’re welcome. Thanks for having me.

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Posted In Children's, Healthy Living, Innovations, Parenting

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