exercise

‘Let’s Move’ moves to schools

 

Michelle Obama is looking to boost exercise programs in schools

Associated Press

Imagine students learning their ABCs while dancing, or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.

Some schools are using both methods of instruction, and Michelle Obama would like to see more of them use other creative ways to help students get the recommended hour of daily exercise.

In Chicago last week, the first lady announced a new public-private partnership to help schools do just that. “Let’s Move Active Schools” starts with a website, www.letsmoveschools.org , where school officials and others can sign up to get started.

Obama said too many penny-pinched schools have either cut spending on physical education or eliminated it outright to put the money toward classroom instruction. But the first lady, who starts most days with a workout — and other advocates of helping today’s largely sedentary kids move — say that’s a false choice, since studies that show exercise helps youngsters focus and do well in school.

The effort is one of the newest parts of the first lady’s 3-year-old campaign against childhood obesity, known as “Let’s Move.”

Research shows that daily exercise has a positive influence on academic performance, but kids spend too much time sitting, mostly in school but also outside the classroom watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Federal guidelines recommend that children ages 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, which can be racked up through multiple spurts of activity throughout the day.

The White House says the most current data, from 2007, shows that just 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provided daily physical education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he’s proof of the link between exercise and academic performance. As a boy, he said, he had a hard time sitting still in class but exercise helped him focus.

“What’s true for me is true for many of our nation’s children,” he said in an interview.

Duncan, who played basketball professionally in Australia, said the choice is not between physical activity or academics, especially with about one-third of U.S. kids either overweight or obese and at higher risk for life-threatening illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.

“It’s got to be both,” he said. Duncan cited the examples of students learning the alphabet while dancing or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.

Under the new initiative, modest grants will be available from the Education Department to help some programs get started. The GENYOUth Foundation and ChildObesity180 also will be awarding grants.

Nike has committed $50 million to the effort over the next five years; the remaining groups together have pledged more than $20 million.

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