We Need to Help Our Children and Schools Get Moving, Too

March 07, 2013

Rochelle Davis, HSC President & CEO, on why the entire school community must support physical activity in schools.

by Rochelle Davis, President and CEO, Healthy Schools Campaign

Last week, I had the honor of attending the Chicago launch of Let’s Move! Active Schools, the newest initiative of  First Lady Michelle Obama’s effort to reverse the trend in childhood obesity within a generation. Let’s Move! Active Schools is built around the notion that school champions, whether they be administrators, principals, teachers, school nurses parents or students themselves, are needed to integrate physical activity into the school experience.

This is something we at Healthy Schools Campaign believe in very strongly. We have worked in school and communities across Chicago, providing parents, principals, teachers and school nurses with knowledge and skill to create a healthy school environment. We have come to understand that anyone, regardless of their role, can be an effective champion. l applaud the First Lady and Let’s Move! Active Schools for understanding this need, and we are so glad to see this program will identify, support and motivate champions in this area, and are excited to work with her on this.

The Let’s Move! Active Schools launch event exemplified how fun physical activity can be. At the event, students joined the First Lady and celebrity athletes, in a dynamic exercise workout. The kids were up and moving and having a great time. This is what physical activity is all about—it’s about getting everyone up and active with workouts that everyone can do to improve health and have fun! And you don’t need all-star Nike trainers or A-List athletes to have that kind of experience.

And while the First Lady understands the importance of physical education and physical activity, many of our political leaders do not. For example, here in Illinois, so far in 2013 five bills have been introduced that threaten the future of P.E., most notably House Bill 2242, which would completely eliminate the Illinois P.E. requirement. We find this approach counterproductive. Our political and education leaders must understand that quality P.E. programs are important for the health, growth and academic performance of our students. Students who participate in physical activity are more focused on their studies when they return to class, perform better in school and miss fewer days due to illness or unmanaged health conditions, and those are just a few of the benefits.

We understand that schools are faced with numerous challenges. But the research has shown over and over again that P.E. and physical activity provide schools, and more importantly, provides students, with short-term and long-term benefits, from improved testing to better health, to better-developed social skills. For our friends in Illinois, we encourage you to write to your representatives and send a strong, clear message to the Illinois General Assembly that parents, teachers and communities support daily, quality physical education for Illinois children. And for friends and advocates everywhere, speak up at your school and community about the importance of physical education and physical activity, for healthier students and healthier schools.

Read a letter from First Lady Michelle Obama on her new program, Let’s Move! Active Schools.