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Active Schools/Active Minds Initiative Can Help Solve the Physical Activity Equation

Howell Wechsler, EdD, MPH, Chief Executive Officer of the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, is a national expert on childhood obesity, having previously served as the Director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
laura.oconnor@healthiergeneration.org

As a marquee partner of Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation works closely with us to advance mutually supported efforts in schools and communities to build environments and systems that support children’s health. The Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program is an evidence-based, national initiative grounded in a six-step process that guides schools to create and sustain healthy environments. Together with Thriving Schools, we are bringing this program to schools across the country to support them in greater health and well-being.

To help get California students moving this year, there’s a new math equation to solve. But don’t worry, we promise you won’t need your calculator.

This year the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program is challenging California students, school leaders and parents to solve for x, when x = how to keep students physically active for 60 minutes every school day, including activity before, during and after school.

Our solution: 10+20+30=60 in elementary schools. That means 10 minutes of physical activity breaks, 20 minutes of recess and 30 minutes of physical education. For middle/high school, the equation changes to 20+40=60. That’s 20 minutes of physical activity breaks and 40 minutes of PE.

Experts recommend that students be active for 60 minutes per day, but we know students aren’t getting the exercise they need to stay healthy and it shows. Nationally, almost a third of children and adolescents are obese or overweight and more than half of high school students aren’t physically active for 60 minutes, five days a week. In California, only 27 percent of fifth graders, 33 percent of seventh graders and 38 percent of ninth graders scored in the Healthy Fitness Zone on 2013-14 fitness tests.

A lack of physical activity and obesity can hurt students’ academics. Research shows that when kids are more active, their classroom behavior and focus on schoolwork improves. If students are obese, they’re more likely to be absent from school, often for reasons that may stem from the social, emotional and behavioral challenges they encounter to increased medical conditions associated with their obesity.

When kids are in school and focused, they will learn more. When they learn more, their overall life and health outcomes are greater.

To help students, parents, teachers and administrators achieve their goals, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation created the Active Schools/Active Minds Initiative with some of the nation’s leading experts in physical activity promotion. Schools that participate in Active Schools/Active Minds get free guidance, technical assistance and training so they can solve the physical activity equation. The Alliance’s online assessment and action plan tools provide a customized roadmap for schools to increase opportunities for physical activity and the roadmaps are flexible enough to adapt to schools’ changing needs throughout the school year.

Join Us!

California schools can sign up to join the Active Schools/Active Minds initiative at healthiergeneration.org/active. If your school isn’t a member of the Healthy Schools Program, you can sign up for that as well. The Healthy Schools Program provides guidance, tools and support for more than 30,000 schools across the country, reaching 17 million students. Schools that participate in the Active Schools/Active Minds Initiative could win prizes, such as time with a celebrity athlete. So save the calculators for math class, and start working on solving the physical activity equation today!

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