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Valley program uses geocaching courses to promote exercise

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PHOENIX ­– Dozens of children screamed with excitement at Steele Indian School Park as they ran through grass and along a walking path to complete a geocaching tour dedicated Wednesday.

A collaboration of the city’s FitPHX initiative and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the KohlsFIT GeoTour is designed to get kids moving by engaging with technology other than videogames.

“It’s about getting kids and families out and active,” Nicole Benson-Reiff, community outreach program specialist for the KohlsFIT Program at Phoenix Children’s. “You can put on a pair of shoes, get your mom’s cellphone and go out and geocache or go for a walk or run.”

Sixty kids and 20 parents from Excelencia School also tried out a walking path that now has mileage markers so walkers can see how far they’ve gone.

The KohlsFIT GeoTour is available at a few dozen other parks around the Valley. At Steele Indian School Park, visitors can use smartphone applications to search for five geocaches.

Some of the locations contain prizes such as bandanas or bracelets while others require participants to fill out a log and move on to the next location.

KohlsFIT works with 56 Valley schools to encourage kids and their families to eat healthy and be active.

Benson-Reiff said she wants to show kids that they don’t have to be the quarterback of the football team in order to get fit; they can just be fit and have fun at the same time.

“It’s really important to teach them now so hopefully throughout their lifetime they will set a foundation for a healthy life,” she said.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, Arizona ranks 15th in the nation for childhood obesity.

Olympic gold medal swimmer Misty Hyman, a leader of the FitPHX initiative, helped introduce the children to the geocaching course.

“I think a lot of times people think that being healthy and fit is hard and has to be a chore, but with this program here at the park with the new walking trail it just shows people that it’s not that hard,” she said. “It’s as simple as getting outside and playing and enjoying our beautiful weather.”

Fifth-grader Ashley Camp said she loved being involved in KohlsFIT and FitPHX and doing exercise even outside of events like this.

“I always play with my friends at recess,” Camp said. “We play tag.”