Athletes for Hope

Physical Activity Produces Smarter Kids, Say Top Athletes

Utah News

Granite School District Earns National Recognition at Event Calling for Every School District in America to Have High Quality Physical Activity

Salt Lake City, UT – Hundreds of students warming up for their daily “Jolly Jogger” activity at Crestview Elementary School this morning received an inspiring message from some of the nation’s top athletes: Being active today is a great way to do better in school tomorrow.

The message was delivered by Chris Waddell, the most decorated male skier in Paralympic history; Emily Cook, two-time Olympian and five-time national champion aerial freestyle skier; Olympic speed skater Derek Parra; and Jacqui Little Rimando, WUSA soccer player. The athletes released a new research report, A New Game Plan for America, showing that physical activity increases academic achievement. They also called for every school district in America to have high quality physical education (PE), and for Congress to ensure that all school districts report how much and what kind of PE they’re offering. The reporting is important, the athletes said, because parents need to be assured schools are making physical activity a key part of every school day.

“The research in this report from the CDC and other top sources is surprising,” said Waddell. “The report shows that at least 30 minutes of physical activity at school can improve not only kids’ fitness but their academic achievement as well.”

“We want every school district in America to do what the Granite School District is doing,” said Cook. “When kids discover the joy of movement, they improve their academic performance.”

“Right now two out of three high school students in America do not get daily PE,” said Rimando. “We have to change our culture to make kids see physical activity – like walking or riding a bike – as something that’s as important as brushing their teeth and something they should do every day.”

The athletes came to Crestview Elementary for a ceremony that honored the Granite School District with the Innovation in Physical Activity Award, which was presented by Champions for America’s Future Vice President Jeff Kirsch, who recognized the Granite School District for its leadership. He noted that Congress has an opportunity to ensure more schools offer high quality PE as it considers K-12 education reform this year.

“Reporting on physical activity that students are getting should be as important as reporting on test scores and graduation rates,” said Kirsch. “As a nation, we recognize schools have a responsibility to serve healthy food to our kids. Physical activity is as central to keeping kids physically fit as a healthy lunch is to keeping them well-nourished.”

“Most kids won’t grow up to be Olympians, but they all deserve the opportunity to live healthy, fit lives,” said Athletes for Hope CEO Ivan Blumberg. “Schools like Crestview and others in the Granite School District are setting a great example for others to follow.”

In detailing the connections between physical activity and academic success, Kirsch noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed available research studies and reported that 11 show that physical education at school enhanced academic achievement. Data reported by the Journal of Pediatrics showed that 20 minutes of moderate physical activity can help children with ADHD improve math and reading scores. A third study in Sweden examined one million 18-year-olds who joined the army and found that better fitness was correlated with higher I.Q.’s, even among identical twins. A New Game Plan for America also reports:

  • In one generation, childhood obesity has tripled. Today 17 percent of teenage girls and 20 percent of teenage boys are suffering from childhood obesity
  • Overweight children are more likely to become overweight or obese as adults. Among children who are already too heavy, 75 percent will be overweight or obese as adults.
  • In just 44 years, physical activity in the U.S. has declined by 32 percent, and is on track for a 46 percent drop by 2030. Among U.S. children, moderate to vigorous physical activity drops by 75 percent between the ages of 9 and 15.
  • Obesity has a significant, negative impact on the economy. The Institute of Medicine reports that annual medical spending on obesity-related illness is now $190 billion a year, with one in five dollars being spent on health care.

Champions for America’s Future is a national, bipartisan membership organization of athletes and coaches who have come together to make sure every child has the best chance to compete in life. Its members educate the public and policymakers at the local, state and national levels about proven, cost-effective programs that help children overcome obstacles that prevent them from competing successfully in the 21st Century.

Athletes for Hope is a non-profit organization founded in 2007 by philanthropic athletes, including Andre Agassi, Muhammad Ali, Warrick Dunn, Jeff Gordon, Mia Hamm, Tony Hawk, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Mario Lemieux, and Alonzo Mourning. As athletes who share a deep commitment to giving back, its founders joined forces to create an organization that brings athletes together to educate, inspire, and empower them to channel their energy for a common goal: to make a difference in the world.

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To read the report click here.

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