Regan Lloyd, left, and Makenzie Thompson use exercise
bands in a program after school at Stonewall Tell
Elementary School, September 9, 2013, in College Park,
ó As the school year neared a close last April, officials in
Georgia issued an urgent plea to add 30 minutes of exercise
into the school day.
joint letter ó sent to superintendents across the state ó
State Superintendent John Barge and Georgia Department of
Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald made their case
for more exercise by pointing to the staggering results of a
statewide fitness assessment: Only 16 percent of the stateís
students passed five tests of physical fitness, which measured
flexibility, body/mass index, aerobic capacity (in a one-mile
run/walk or in an interval run) and the ability to do push-ups
five students was unable to pass any of the tests conducted
state mired in a child obesity epidemic, and kids not only
heavy, but also weak, the message was simple: Find a way to
get kids moving more.
Not as a
replacement for recess or PE, but school systems instead were
asked to develop new and innovative cardio programs to weave
into an already time-pressed day.
officials also asked for pledges for what they coined,
"Power Up for 30." Just weeks into the new school
year, Georgia schools have responded, with more than 100
committing to incorporating 30 or more minutes of exercise
into the daily routine, including everything from zumba and
yoga classes before the first bell rings to walking and
running clubs after school and 10-minute deskercize and
Stonewall Tell Elementary in College Park, Lisa Sinon, a PE
teacher, got a grant to get pedometers for every student. The
pedometers will be used to encourage kids to take 10,000 steps
every day. But she said those pedometers will also accompany
students to math class where the fitness toolís measurements
can also be used for math exercises.
fitness problem grew over the years as schools came under
pressure to show academic progress, so they slashed or even
eliminated PE. Even recess was no longer a given. But exercise
is now moving up the priority list as officials try to reverse
Jennifer Powell, health and physical education coordinator for
DeKalb County Schools, said thereís another reason to focus
more on exercise: a growing amount of research suggests
children who exercise tend to perform better in school.
statistics show the state is making slight improvements with
child obesity, particularly among the most overweight
children. The childhood obesity rate in Georgia fell to 16.5
percent, according to a recent report by the Data Resource
Center for Child and Adolescent Health based on a 2011 survey.
Thatís down from 21.3 percent based on the 2007 survey.
Hills Elementary School in Chamblee, one of the schools taking
the pledge, has offered a morning program called "Tiger
Tune up," letting kids play in the gym before class
starts with everything from hula hoops to plastic balls.
Wednesdays are "walking Wednesdays" and PE teacher,
Elisabeth Spaulding plays Kidz Bop (a brand of compilation
albums featuring kids performing current pop hits) while the
kids walk laps inside the gym.
a new after-school bike program on Thursdays that has kids
asking, "Is it Thursday?" every day of the week.
kids bring their bikes to school. Spaulding also went out and
bought 10 bikes at thrift stores for kids who donít have
bikes and she conducts a program that lets kids ride around
the empty parking lot or field by school for exercise.
only worked up a sweat, but a handful of kids, including
several fifth-graders, learned how to ride a bike through the
exercise is also a high priority at Stonewall Tell Elementary
School, one of the 51 schools across the state recently
receiving a gold SHAPE Honor Roll medal, a new program
designed to fight childhood obesity.
teacher Sinon leads several initiatives promoting healthy
living. They include hosting an annual family fitness night
complete with rock climbing and three-bean-salad tastings, to
teaming up with Radio Disney and Childrenís Healthcare of
Atlantaís Strong4Life assemblies that emphasize the
importance of being active and healthy.
class, Sinon encourages kids to invent their own games. She
often brings out a cart with plastic balls and encourages kids
to develop their own twist on a chase and tag game.
of youngsters recently came up with a "Diary of a Wimpy
Kid tag," named after the popular childrenís book
series. Now the kids play the game at recess.
school, a Fitness Enrichment Club mixes a variety of cardio
from dance to basketball to exercise circuit stations.
not alone in her efforts to encourage healthy living. Other
teachers, administrators and even parents help enforce a ban
on junk food snacks that includes not allowing cupcakes, even
a parent brings cupcakes, he or she will be stopped at the
front desk," said Sinon. "But what is happening is
parents are bringing beautiful and delicious fruit platters
and the kids like them." Jennifer Thompson, a Stonewall
Tell Elementary School parent to fourth- grader Makenzie, is a
big supporter of the growing attention given to health and
very important that we instill the importance of 30 minutes of
exercise every day," said Thompson. "I am OK with
breaks during the school day for kids to get exercise. Itís
so good for them. Itís stimulating for the brain and helps
with learning to get those breaks during the day."
Makenzie said she loves all of the opportunities she gets to
exercise at school. And sheís noticed it is making a
difference in her life.
I exercise after school and then do my homework, it only takes
me 30 minutes," she said. "But if I donít exercise
and just go directly to do my homework, it takes me an