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First Lady Launches Effort to Get Kids Active at Least an Hour a Day

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First Lady Michelle Obama said today she is expanding her Let's Move! campaign to help schools provide the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity for students.

Through the new program, Let's Move! Active Schools, Mrs. Obama is encouraging parents and educators to sign up on LetsMoveSchools.org to become school physical-activity champions for their communities. A six-step process on the website provides a personalized outline for how schools can increase physical activity and what resources are needed to achieve that goal.

The first lady hopes to get her new program into at least 50,000 schools within the next five years.

She won't be alone in the endeavor, though. NIKE, Inc., has already committed $50 million over the next five years to help children stay active before, during, and after school, and to build community support for school-based physical activity.

A handful of other organizations have pledged an additional $20 million toward the effort over the next half-decade. ChildObesity180 will provide $1 million worth of "Acceleration Grants" to at least 1,000 school physical-activity champions this year. Over the next three years, the organization has committed up to $3 million for the growth and expansion of quality school-based physical-activity programs.

The GENYOUth Foundation, meanwhile, will help at least 5,000 schools implement quality school-based physical-activity programs through Fuel Up to Play 60 grants over the next five years. The foundation has committed $9 million to the cause over the next half-decade, and will encourage all grant recipients to complete the Let's Move! Active Schools program, too.

The development and implementation of the program will largely be guided by the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN); the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD); and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.

The President's Council will focus on the promotion and scaling up of the new Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP), which was announced last September as the replacement for the Presidential Physical Fitness Test. The General Mills Foundation is dedicating $10 million over the next five years to help schools make use of the fitness program.

The AAHPERD will be focusing more on the professional development side of things. The organization has pledged to train at least 20,000 school physical-activity champions over the next five years.

Well and Good

"Physical educators have always known that children are designed to move. Now through Let's Move! Active Schools, we are thrilled to elevate our efforts in increasing physical activity before, during and after school to a larger national stage," said AAHPERD chief executive officer Paul E. Robert in a statement. "Our role will be to provide professional development training so that physical educators will create even more early, positive experiences for all children. We want physical activity to become an integral part of their daily lives."

Even the U.S. Department of Education is getting involved. The department's $80 million Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) will be retooled to prioritize schools most in need and will encourage proposals designed around evidence-based best practices, similar to the Investing in Innovation grant competition. The department plans on making research and evidence far more important in its competitive grant competitions, as my colleague Michele McNeil recently reported.

"Good health is not an add-on to a good education," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan in a statement. "Our children need to be healthy to be prepared to learn, and we know active students are better able to engage in the classroom and excel academically. We need more of our schools creating environments that promote physical activity and play and encourage our students to get moving."

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity on a daily basis. However, the percentage of children reaching that physical activity goal only tends to decline as they grow older, according to a recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

A study published online in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine last month suggested that mandatory physical education, classroom activity breaks, and active commuting to school could result in up to 58 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per day for students.

It's those types of simple changes that Let's Move! Active Schools appears to be targeting.

"With each passing year, schools feel like it's just getting harder to find the time, the money, and the will to help our kids be active. But just because it's hard doesn't mean we should stop trying—it means we should try harder. It means that all of us—not just educators, but businesses and non-profits and ordinary citizens—we all need to dig deeper and start getting even more creative," said the first lady in a statement. "That's what Let's Move! Active Schools is all about—it's about all of us coming together to once again make being active a way of life for our kids. And with today's announcement, anyone, in any community, can become a champion to bring physical education back to their school."

Mrs. Obama was joined for the announcement in Chicago by the education secretary, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, tennis star Serena Williams, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and three U.S. Olympians and gold medal-winners (Dominique Dawes, Gabby Douglas, and Allyson Felix), among others.

The announcement came on the last day of her two-day anniversary tour for the Let's Move! program, which celebrated its third birthday earlier this month.

Photo: First lady Michelle Obama exercises with children from Chicago Public Schools while celebrating the third anniversary of her 'Lets Move' program on Thursday in Chicago. (M. Spencer Green/AP)

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