Basic jumping, timed jumping, the long rope.

If it’s a move involving a jump rope, the kids at Sibley Elementary School in Grand Rapids know their stuff.

Thursday afternoon, Sibley Elementary PE instructor Bill Weibel challenged the class of second-, third- and fourth-graders to show him exactly how much they knew.

It was all part of the Spectrum Health Jump Jam summer jump rope competition.

“Today’s class is going to help you develop healthy habits of exercising,” Weibel said, handing each of them a jump rope as he began with the basics.

“Let’s see how many we can do in a minute,” he said. “Jumpers ready? Jumpers set? And go!”

The gymnasium erupted in a whoosh as jump ropes twirled. Little feet pattered on the gym floor.

“Ten seconds, come on! This is where you make your money,” Weibel said, nearing the end of one minute.

The kids began to report their tallies: 113, 121, 61, 93, 108.

“When we first started jumping rope in my class, many were out of breath at this point,” Weibel said. “Now they don’t even breathe heavy after an intense minute of jumping.”

Next came the long rope—two kids would spin the rope while a third kid jumped in the middle.

Nick Radeck, 10, said he’s really into long rope jumping.

And he wasn’t kidding. He clocked more than 80 jumps, uninterrupted in a one-minute period, making it the class record for the day.

“I’m beat,” Nick said. “But I’m ready to go again, too.”

Thalia Abdullah, 9, quickly joined the excitement.

“I might need to put my hair up for this one,” she said.

At the end of practice, Weibel went over the Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s Healthy Counts program with the kids.

It listed nine important items for kids to complete each day to promote good health:

  • Eight hours or more of sleep each night
  • Seven breakfasts a week
  • Six home-cooked meals a week
  • Five servings of fruits and vegetables a day
  • Four positive self-messages a day
  • Three servings of low-fat dairy a day
  • Two hours maximum screen time a day
  • One hour or more of physical activity a day
  • Zero sugary drinks a day

And to make sure the kids really learned the program, Spectrum Health provided a deck of cards for each student to take home.

The cards help keep them on track, Kelsey Bako, community relations lead at Spectrum Health, said.

“The activity cards are designed for families to participate anywhere, anytime,” Bako said. “Parents, kids and siblings can all get in on the fun and use the cards throughout the year to create family activities while teaching healthy habits.”

The content includes jump rope demonstrations, healthy recipes, activities, and ways to increase words of encouragement.

Jump Jam’s goal is to promote health and wellness, which helps meet the mission of Spectrum Health: Improve health, instill humanity and inspire hope.

The program also emphasizes the importance of eating healthy and being active, in alignment with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s Healthy Counts program.

There’s no substitute for moving, William Stratbucker, MD, section chief for Health Optimization Services at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, said.

“Our bodies simply need this to use up the healthy fuel we provide them,” he said. “Activity adds to a family’s healthy nutrition of eating good foods, reasonable portions, avoiding eating anything most evenings, and getting the sugar out of what we drink.”

Activity, nutrition, sleep and mental health are the four cornerstones of the Healthy Counts program, Dr. Stratbucker said.

“Activity is good no matter what kind it is,” he said. “And no matter what size, shape or age you are. Moving your body is always good.”

At the end of the gym class, one thing was clear: Kids really love jumping rope.

“It’s really easy. And it gives me energy,” Nick said. “I did 160 jumps today, just in two rounds of long rope.”

And one student wasn’t quite ready to call it quits for the day.

“Can I jump rope again?” Thalia asked.