School Based Physical Education Programs Combat Childhood Obesity

A newly published study found school based programs to boost children's physical activity and nutrition may result in a decrease in childhood obesity risks.

The Dallas-based Cooper Institute, through its NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project, revealed annual improvements in aerobic capacity and body mass index for students participating in NFL PLAY 60 programming when compared to schools not utilizing NFL PLAY 60 programs. 

NFL Play 60 is a national youth health and fitness campaign focused on increasing the wellness of youth by encouraging 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

According to researchers, approximately 33 percent of U.S. children (6 to 19 years old) are overweight and obese, and it is estimated that 80 percent of adolescents do not achieve the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity. 

The study, published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, was based on an evaluation of four years of data from schools participating in the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project.  

Schools participating in the programming had significantly larger annual improvements in aerobic capacity as well as significant improvements in body mass index over time when compared to the non-programming schools. 

"These school based initiatives can and do work. We need more of them and they really are making an impact on youth health today," says Claire Kinzy, vice president of communications and public affairs at The Cooper Institute.

Evidence of that can be found at Nichols Elementary School in the Frisco Independent School District, which adopted the NFL Play 60 Challenge four years ago.

"The kids really get in to wanting to get in their 60 minutes. They'll definitely let us know when they get more than 60 minutes," said physical education coach Anthony Attanasio.

"The interventions are successful when you start building the pieces that create a culture of health on your campus," said Frisco ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeremy Lyon.

The Cooper Institute, according to Kinzy, is a nonprofit dedicated to promoting lifelong health and wellness through research and education. 

Founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the institute translates the latest scientific findings into proactive solutions that improve population health. Key areas of focus are research, youth education and advocacy.

The Cooper Institute is home to the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, the world’s largest and longest running observational study on measured fitness, and FitnessGram, the most widely used youth physical fitness assessment, education and reporting tool in the world.

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