Schenectady County

Insurer gives girls lessons in mind, body health this year

Monday was National Child Health Day, and in honor of the occasion, Girls Inc. announced a year-long

Girls sprinted back and forth in the Girls Inc. gym Monday to celebrate the beginning of a year of better health.

It was National Child Health Day, and in honor of the occasion, Girls Inc. announced a year-long partnership with BlueShield of Northeastern New York.

The health insurer will help Girls Inc. fund Mind+Body, a new initiative from the national Girls Inc. organization. The program teaches girls how to take care of themselves — not just physically, but through managing stress, developing a positive body image, and other healthy habits.

“The Mind+Body program is our way of showing girls that being healthy does not mean just being active or just eating right,” Girls Inc. President Gail Wilson-Giarratano said in a news release. “It’s a comprehensive look at all aspects of being healthy — in your body and your mind — and how girls can carry those skills throughout their lives.”

BlueShield will also fund two programs based on its “Healthy Changes Everything” campaign: one program on dance and one on international sports.

But from the girls’ point of view, Monday’s kick-off session was mostly about running fast.

They raced each other across the gym, then added to their team’s list of things that could make their mind or body healthier. After scrawling messages about walking dogs or eating nutritious food, they raced back so the next teammate could run across the gym.

Afterward, they chopped up watermelon, kiwi, mango and honeydew and mixed them into a fruit salsa while adults led a discussion about the value of healthy eating.

Organizers tried to get the girls to think of the race, and the fruit, as more than simply diet and exercise.

Exercise can help them deal with stress and break through moody days, adults told them. Good food isn’t just low in calories — it provides vitamins and energy.

The majority of Girls Inc. girls are 5 to 11 years old, and Girls Inc. officials emphasized that healthy habits would put them in a far better position as teenagers.

“Starting at a younger age makes it easier to reap the benefits of a healthy mind and body when you become a woman,” Chief Operating Officer Bryan LaVigne said.

He hopes they will learn how to handle stress without turning to snacks, drugs or alcohol.

“Girls report feeling a great deal of stress in their lives and need to be aware of healthy ways to cope with that stress,” he said.

Girls Inc. is located at 962 Albany St. Its after-school programs are free.

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