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August 26, 2015

The Health Trekker Challenge is designed for high school students who are not interested in traditional sports for physical activity. The Challenge consists of a 6-month exercise program pairing with the awareness and learning of healthy food items for healthy living. The program allows for peer learning and collaboration and mentor opportunities from skilled adults.

Dr. Jesse DeMello, an associate professor of kinesiology and health science at LSU Shreveport, was just one of the contributors to test and train the participants of the Health Trekker Challenge to Shreveport teens. Other contributors from the department were Dr. Timothy Winter, professor and chair of kinesiology, Dr. Mary Hawkins, associate professor, graduate student Xiamara Clement, and undergraduate Ridge Gonsoulin.

"The Department of Kinesiology and Health Science administers the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana grant to the Healthy Green and Into the Outdoors Community grant that included the Health Trekker Program, a wilderness adventure program created by One Great River of Louisiana," DeMello said. "The Department of Kinesiology and Health Science was contracted to provide physical abilities testing of the program participants and provide a physical preparation program to help the participants meet the demands of the wilderness trek."

The Healthy Green and Into the Outdoors (HGIO) program is a collaboration that was founded five years ago due to the prevalence of obesity and other health problems in Shreveport children. "All participants were measured for body composition, aerobic capacity, anaerobic power, strength and relative endurance in our human performance laboratory," DeMello said. "Ms. Clement also measured the participants for lower-body joint function and flexibility. Mr. Gonsoulin conducted 20-weekly training sessions to teach the participants muscle strength and endurance activities."

"I was responsible for designing individual physical training programs for each participant," DeMello said. "We measured body composition (hydrostatic weighing) aerobic capacity (maximal oxygen consumption treadmill test), anaerobic power (Wingate bicycle ergometer test) and upper-body relative strength (bench press test)."

DeMello said the testing took place in the department of kinesiology and health science human performance laboratory, with pre-testing in November and December of 2014, and the post-testing in May and June of this year. The physical training began in February and required the participants progressively exercise from a three-day/week program to daily physical activity in May-July. All activity was designed with the Trek activities in mind, such as upright and weight-bearing physical activity.

The Shreveport teens enrolled in the program went on the wilderness trek in July. The point of the One Great River program is to teach young people healthy life-style choices so that they can live better lives.

To learn more about the Health Trekker Challenge, visit

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