Health Matters to Our HALO Youth


For the month of November, our HALO Life Skill is Health. HALO COO Nicole Gerken is passionate about health and teaches a Learning Center workshop every year to educate youth on the importance of this topic. She shares some highlights and tips applicable for everyone.

Written by Nicole Gerken:

Health is a passion of mine and a topic that our HALO kids are truly interested in. I wanted to share what we covered in case this can make a difference in your life too. Because, let’s be honest, if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything, right?

To set the stage of our Workshop, we changed the ambiance with relaxing music and began doing a breathing exercise from Headspace. We then learned two yoga poses: downward facing dog and child’s pose. Some had done yoga before and others were hesitate. But after we did this, everyone seemed at peace and focused. We talked about how we forget to breathe. And how it can change the way you feel if you are feeling stressed. And just by doing two yoga stretches, what a difference that can make in our body. And what’s great about these two things, you can do them anywhere: Breathing and Stretching.

We shared what we are interested in for a career and why our health is important. If you want to be a police officer, why is your health important? If you want to be a choir teacher, why does your health matter? And everyone had an answer. They got it. This was so encouraging for me because I don’t always see this with adults. They said things like: “I can’t take a job and be sick all of the time.” “If I’m a basketball player, I will need to take good care of my body so I can be fit enough to handle practice.”

For the topic of nutrition, and I asked the question: What is more important, nutrition or physical exercise? What makes a bigger impact? They all said nutrition. So smart. It’s actually 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent physical exercise. Not everyone out there understands that concept. We then started taking a closer look at some examples of food and how to read labels. We reviewed a short list of tips by Dr. David Katz:
Clue #1: Never trust the front of a package.
Clue #2: The first ingredient is always the biggest.
Clue #3: Identify harmful ingredients like hydrogenated oils (trans fats) and artificial colors.
Clue #4: Look for a short ingredient list.
Clue #5: Fiber is your friend. We need 25-50 grams each day!

We discussed how the average person consumes 5 lbs. of sugar in a week, and we have to become nutrition detectives and be our own advocate. The big shocker of the night was an old bag of chicken nuggets and french fries that I had passed around. Most guessed a couple of weeks. But they about fell over when I announced they were seven years old. Yes, that stuff stays in our body. Ewwwww.

We then talked about important health tips that could be done daily:
1. Drink water. We need to drink half our body weight in ounces per day. So for example, if you are 100 lbs., then you need to drink 50 oz. of water. And you would definitely increase that intake if you are working out.
2. Sleep. Children ages 5-10 years old need 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night; teens 10-17 need 8.5 to 9.25 hours. 
3. Practice breathing and taking time for yourself to reflect.
4. Eat as many fruits and veggies as you can when given the choice. It’s recommended to have 7-13 servings a day. 
5. MOVE!

Exercise is my favorite part. We created a workout station with six exercises using just their body weight. Thirty seconds per exercise. They loved it and had a good sweat by the end.

We ended the workshop asking the question, what is one small change you are going to make with your health? I received answers like drinking more water, going for a walk daily, not eating fast food, practicing yoga, eating better, etc. So proud of them. Baby steps add up. One small change can make a difference, as we know for HALO. So, I ask you, why is your health important and what is one small change you are going make? Because, your health does matter, and maintaining our health should be our top priority so we can make our biggest impacts in the world.

Interested in teaching a workshop? Passionate about a topic you want to share? Get involved by attending our upcoming Volunteer Information Meeting. Details here.