Some Ottawa high school students were sweating it up over the lunch hour in a new program that brings community fitness classes into their school. The instructors teaching the classes hope to roll it out across the city.  Many high school students are chowing down on chips or pizza at lunch or hanging out at their lockers, flipping through phones.

About 15 students at Ottawa’s Glebe Collegiate, on the other hand, are doing leg raises, lateral lunges and ab burners.  This is the "Butt and Gut" class; one of seven classes now being offered before school, after school and at lunch to students and staff.

‘I think it's good for everyone and gets them participating in all sorts of activities,’ says Grade 12 student Kaylee Silver.

‘It was torture but hopefully it did some good,’ adds Claire Smith, who is also in Grade 12 and just finished up the noon-hour class.

The classes are free through the Glebe Neighborhood Activities Group, or GNAG, a non-profit group which provides the instructors from the local community centre.

Mary Tsai-Davies is the executive director of GNAG and the instructor for the “Butt and Gut” class.

‘Instead of trying to get the youth to come into our community centre,’ says Tsai-Davies, ‘we go out to them.’

Glebe Collegiate provides the students and space.  A $20-thousand dollar grant from the Ministry of Education helped convert an old shop class into a fitness centre.  Marrying exercise and learning is the key.

‘We know how important it is for kids to be active,’ says Matt Armstrong, the vice-principal at Glebe, ‘we know about the physiological impact of exercise but we're also starting to learn, and research is showing us, the benefits of exercise in learning and the connection between exercise and learning. If you exercise, get your heart rate up, and keep it up there, you've primed brain for learning.’

The challenge, though, is getting the students interested.  Grade 12 student Brendan Copeland Dinan is a regular at the classes and has tried to drag his buddies out to kick boxing or yoga but it's a tough sell.

‘I don't know why,’ says Copeland Dinan, ‘it's fun, puts you in a good mood but they'd rather be on their phones.’

According to a recent survey by Statistics Canada, only about 7% of young people are meeting the recommended physical activity guidelines that suggest teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17 should get 60 minutes a day of moderate to strenuous exercise.  The vast majority are spending their waking time in doing little more than sitting. Teens between 15 to 19 years old, according to the survey, spend up to 9 hours a day in a sedentary position.

And while the Glebe Fit program is in the infancy stage, the hope one day is to span it out across the city.

‘In many ways, we do hope this is launching pad,’ says Tim Lamothe, with Glebe Neighborhood Activities Group, ‘and we'd love to reach out to other high schools in the city, absolutely.’