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Physical Education/Fitness News Roundup: May 2011

We're a month away from beach season, the sun is shining, and news about physical fitness and physical education for youths has been flying recently. Here's your roundup of the best fitness news items from the past few weeks.

In New York: Supporters of kickball and Red Rover can rest easy, as New York won't be regulating the summer camp favorites after all.

The New York health department issued a list of "nonpassive recreational activities with significant risk of injury" back in April, including freeze tag, Wiffle Ball, and Capture the Flag, saying that these summer-camp favorites needed to be regulated more closely, according to the New York Daily News. The proposed regulations were in response to a 2009 law aimed at closing a loophole that allowed indoor day camps to operate without sufficient oversight.

After a wave of backlash, the health department pulled back on the regulations. Department spokeswoman Claudia Hutton said, "The practical effect is that we are not going to get that detailed and into micromanagement," according to nbcnewyork.com. Hutton said the department will continue to gather feedback through May 16, and will then create new broader safety regulations.

In Portland, Maine: A youth anti-obesity program called Let's Go!, which revolves around the principle of 5-2-1-0, led to a 1.5 percentage point decrease in the youth overweight-and-obesity rate in southern Maine over the past six years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

What does 5-2-1-0 mean? Youths following the program would eat five or more fruits or vegetables per day, have two hours or less of screen time per day, one hour or more of physical activity per day, and zero sugary drinks (such as soda or sports drinks). A group of local businesses have spent around $3.7 million to promote the 5-2-1-0 message to children in the Portland area. Dr. Victoria Rogers, a founder of Let's Go!, told the WSJ that the idea behind the program is to change the environments of home and school to not allow easy access to fatty, sugary foods.

Hawaii also launched the Hawaii 5-2-1-0 Let's Go! last month.

In Jurupa, California: Thanks to instructor Giselle Kendall, phys. ed. lessons at Patriot High School have officially entered the 21st century. Kendall, the Jurupa Unified School District's high school teacher of the year, has been working cellphone apps into her phys. ed. units, according to the Press Enterprise. Over the past year, Kendall told the paper that she's worked apps into lessons about muscle mass, caloric intake, and body mass index.

And speaking of physical-fitness apps: Apple recently applied for a patent for a Fitness Center App, according to Mashable, that "might be able to bring a variety of fitness-tracking capabilities under one icon."

Users of the fitness app would be able to find potential workout partners (using data they input, plus information from social-media accounts), could face off in fitness competitions with other users, and would connect with "smart" exercise equipment. As Mashable reports, a lot of these services are already available through apps and websites, but Apple's Fitness Center App would house all these functions in one central location.

An anti-obesity campaign in Georgia is drawing plenty of attention—both positive and negative—for using images of overweight children on billboards alongside messages such as "chubby kids may not outlive their parents."

The Georgia Children's Health Alliance, which created the campaign, said that the jarring images were necessary to bring parents of obese children out of denial. Opponents of the ad campaign suggest that the ads will only result in more negative stigma for overweight children, ultimately doing more harm than good.

And finally, the Power Rangers have jumped aboard the youth anti-obesity campaign with their new emPOWER Movement. (This one hits close to home, as this writer spent a solid chunk of his childhood watching the Power Rangers, back when they were the "Mighty Morphin" variety.)

The emPOWER Movement is intended to inspire students to stick to the Power Rangers' values: teamwork, confidence, health and physical activity, and friendship and caring. Available on the emPOWER Movement website is an fitness activities guideRequires Adobe Acrobat Reader for schools to use, specifically for K-3 students. Activities in the guide include the Power Rangers' spin on jumping jacks, Cobra crawls, and stretching exercises. These fitness guides were delivered to over 4,500 elementary schools (reaching more than 1.5 million students) in January and February 2011, according to the emPOWER Movement's website.

Schools that finish the emPOWER Movement program by May 31 are also eligible to enter a sweepstakes for a chance to win $10,000 for their school and a visit from the Samurai Power Rangers.

See one of the Power Rangers' workout videos below:

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