Monday, December 21, 2009

A Family Activity for the Holidays

Guest Blogger: Carrie Gibson, PE4life Event Manager

Ah, yes, Christmas time!  So looking forward to the days of lounging at my parents home with the never ending array of goodies, classic Christmas movies (The Christmas Story, Christmas Vacation, you know the ones I’m talking about…) and quality time spent with family.  This year, however, I’m mixing it up!  Little do they know, they are going to experience an outdoor adventure!

Inspired by Deb Walter’s phenomenal adventure education program in Rogers, AR, I am coordinating a Geocache hunt for my family!  This is my first go-round with Geocaching, but I can tell you that we are having a great time setting this up.  For those of you who don’t know, Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt played with GPS devices.

My husband and I are plotting the perfect locations in our small home-town of Marysville, Kansas (think: The historical Pony Express Statue, the City Park, the high school football field, the church where we were married, the golf course and other key landmarks around town).  Using longitude and latitude coordinates, we will guide the teams to these locations where they will find little prizes and clues for the next spot.

Each team equipped with a GPS device – which is even easier now since most cell phones have this capability, we are strategically splitting them up into teams. (Of course, keeping careful care to split up those “technically challenged” and those with the most local knowledge.)  I will enjoy seeing my 12 year old niece partner with her 60-something grandpa.  I’m also eager to see my sister-in-law who grew up in the big city make her way around small-town America on a mad dash for prizes! 

It should be a good time!  Just hope the weather cooperates and snow doesn’t bury our treasures!

For more information on Geocaching check out this website or this one.

If you want to check out Deb’s program, go here or contact PE4life to learn more!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Guest Blogger: Phil Lawler, Importance of Medical Advisory Boards

We are always looking for ways to support our physical education programs, especially ideas that do not cost a lot of money. One of the best things we ever did in our district was to create a School District Medical Advisory Board. Our board has been active for over 10 years. The medical advisory board brought tremendous support from our community medical world. Our committee only meets once a year, but the committee is available for support throughout the school year. Our committee has grown to be quite large over the last 10 years. This committee has worked on countless projects to improve the health of children in our school and community. In the process, we were able to educate the medical community on how much the delivery of physical education had changed and they understood the value of teaming with us.

A few examples of success stories: our Medical Advisory Committee was responsible for creating written district guidelines for dealing with asthma. We started offering annual cholesterol screenings through PE class. Possibly our biggest accomplishment was getting support from the medical field to the point we almost completely eliminated medical excuses from PE with doctors support! The last 3 years we have now offered free EKG screenings to all of our high school students (not just athletes - all students). The communication and support for from the medical community has been priceless.

Our school district nurse was the person that first organized our Medical Advisory Board. Click here to view the letter she sends out to the medical community. Below is a short note she sent to a district that recently inquired about starting a Medical Advisory Board in their community:


Phil Lawler gave me your email address. He said that you were interested in starting a medical advisory board in your district. Ours has been a great resource for us . I am attaching the letter that we send to prospective members. We try to have representation from the pediatricians and family physicians in the community as well as a representative from other disciplines like cardiology, ENTs, neurologists, psychologists, infectious disease, etc. From the staff we have the Superintendent and Special Ed. /Student Services Director, our Community Relations person, our head psych and social worker, our nurses, trainers, PE representatives, etc. We meet for a breakfast that we provide once per year and then ask that the members be on call for questions as they arise. We pick the topics for our agenda from issues that arise during the year as well as from concerns/questions that members submit.

Please let me know if you need further information. 

Ellen Wolff

Trust me, this will be one project worth adding to your list of things to do.

Phil Lawler

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Give a 'Friend of PE4life' Membership for the Holidays!

Still trying to find the perfect gift for that hard-to-buy-for person in your life? PE4life has a pretty cool new feature - now you can purchase a 'Friend of PE4life' membership as a gift! Not only will your gift help us impact the 2 million children we reach annually, but it's super convenient too! 

The levels of giving begin as little as $30 and go up to $250. Depending on the level you choose, you'll receive a certificate stating that you (or the recipient) are now a valued friend of PE4life, a subscription to the PE4life Quarterly Newsletter, a goody bag, a PE4life t-shirt, and/or a PE4life sweatshirt!

To learn more or to order, simply visit the Resources page of our pro shop, choose your level of giving, print your personalized certificate and wait for your gifts to arrive in the mail! Orders arriving before Christmas must be placed by December 15th!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Guest Blogger: Carrie Gibson, PE4life Event Manager

I’m super excited to share my holiday plans as they are inspired by PE4life!  Through my years working with PE4life, I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned about the lifelong importance of being physically active and incorporate it into my personal life.

This year my family is participating in a Thanksgiving Day Fun Run sponsored by the Kansas City Sports Commission.  I’ve never been a distance runner (distance running gives me too much time to think of how tired I am J), but I am participating in the 5K Stroller Walk portion of the event with my mom, husband and two little boys.  Perhaps this will help me justify the extra serving of mashed potatoes and gravy that I am sure to consume!  This event is held each year and I’m hoping will become a tradition for our family!

I’m learning that these events are a common Thanksgiving activity (aka Turkey Trot).  You might do an internet search for one in your area.  If not an organized run, consider at least getting everyone outside for a game of football, a power walk around the block – or maybe even a Geocache scavenger hunt.  Stay tuned, as we are organizing a Geocache hunt for our family Christmas activity!

Happy Turkey Day everyone!


Monday, November 23, 2009

New PE4life - Arkansas website!

We're proud to finally be able to share the PE4life - Arkansas website!

PE4life’s presence in Northwest Arkansas has been developing since the establishment of an Academy Training Center within the Rogers’ School District in 2007. With funding from the Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas, PE4life was able to open the first regional office, located in the Rogers Activity Center, (RAC) at 315 West Olive St. This unique training center is one of the six centers strategically positioned in the United States.

The current mission of the PE4life Arkansas Chapter is to serve schools and communities in Arkansas and Mississippi through physical education training referred to as PE4life Training. Attendees include physical education teachers, education and community leaders as well as corporation health and wellness champions. PE4life is not a cookie cutter program, but a unique philosophy that integrates into an existing program, enhancing what is already in place.

You can check out the website - here!

Friday, November 20, 2009

This Year, Make Holiday Meals a Rainbow of Color

As I ski through my first semester with the children of the Kansas City Missouri School District, one key message we are teaching is to choose a variety of colors with foods from each of the basic food groups.  This holiday season strive to be creative with entrées, side dishes and beverages. Bring color to the table with nutrient rich foods that are both good for the body and tasty.

When coaching our kids, we talk about power pick foods. A power pick food is a food high in nutrients and low in fat and added sugar. Think of two foods associated with each color of the rainbow. Go to the internet and search for healthy recipes containing these foods.

For example:
Red:  Try a cranberry apple sauce, strawberry Jell-O or a non-alcoholic pomegranate margarita. Mom always makes her strawberry Jell-O for holiday meals. We crave this dish year after year. 

Orange: Pumpkin and sweet potatoes are great examples of orange foods.  Make a moist, low-fat, nutrient dense chocolate cake by mixing a box of devils food cake with 1 15 oz can of pure pumpkin. This works for brownie cup cakes too and helps with portion control. Recipe compliments of

Yellow:  Try some flavorful spaghetti squash and corn. Lightly sautéed spaghetti squash with pepper and garlic is great for a side dish. Jalapeno corn muffins are delicious and can be a nice change from white dinner rolls. 

Green:  Power picks would be broccoli and spinach. How about a cheesy, broccoli casserole, using broccoli, brown rice, onions and cheese? A nice spinach salad is always a fresh way to start your meal.   

Purple:  Make some purple cabbage slaw with a vinaigrette dressing, raisins and sunflower seeds or roasted eggplant with fresh garlic, oregano and canola oil. 

Brown and White:  Turkey is traditionally brown and white. It is nutrient dense, low in fat and rich in protein. Beans are an excellent low-fat choice for protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. A three bean salad is a quick and easy dish to whip up. Make mashed potatoes using low-fat yogurt and Smart Balance in place of sour cream and butter. Jicama makes for a healthy appetizer, especially when dipped in holiday hummus made with chopped green parsley. 

Exercising with family members helps burn and digest holiday calories. So remember to get out and walk with family before or after your holiday meal.  Check out local Thanksgiving or Jingle Bell 5K run/walks. Most of my family members are doing the Thanksgiving 5k Family Fun Run/Walk this year!  Whatever your holiday meal choices may be, have a nutritious and active plan. Adding color to holiday meals can be fun, appetizing and very healthy!  So taste a rainbow this Holiday Season.

Post submitted by:
Carolyn R. Skelton
RD Nutrition Coach, Healthy Schools Partnership

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Jump Rope!

Jump Roping can be a great form of exercise – and fun too!  Check out this awesome video of jump roping to the MAX!  Hope this inspires you (and your students)!

The Firecrackers are a performance jump rope team made up of talented 4th-8th graders from the Kings Local School District in Kings Mills, Ohio. Coached by Lynn Kelley, they perform at venues across the country.

The Firecrackers grew out of an elementary school physical education exposition. Coach Kelly was looking for a rhythmic activity that could be choreographed to music. She found some jump ropes, a few interested students and some good music. The response to the activity was so positive, that it was suggested that the group perform at halftime of a Junior Varsity basketball game. More overwhelmingly positive feedback lead the team to perform at more high school games and then eventually college and NBA basketball games.

For more information on the Firecrackers or the benefits of jump roping, check out…

Friday, November 13, 2009

Study deems PE4life an overall success!

The Titusville Area School District is well-known for the success it has had with the PE4Life program.

And proof that the physical education program results in better conditioning in the top two areas of general health was presented to school directors on Monday.

Dr. Randy Nichols, of Slippery Rock University, who was involved with a PE4Life study of students grades six through nine, said the purpose of the study was to determine if the PE4Life program has better overall results for its students versus students who participated in a traditional gym class.

Nichols, a former Titusville student, said the study compared Titusville with a “control” school of approximately the same size and student population. The study assessed students in areas including muscle fitness, flexibility and body composition.

He also said the study assessed students' nutritional choices, physical educational activities and levels of enjoyment of physical activities.

Although the results of the study showed the control school faring better in the area of flexibility, Nichols said the Titusville students who were surveyed showed higher significant improvements in cardio-vascular endurance and muscular strength and muscular endurance.

“When they think of the big picture, they think of cardio-vascular endurance and muscle strength and muscle endurance,” Nichols said. “These are the top two areas in which Titusville scored highest.”

Nichols also told school officials at the work session that Titusville students also had significantly higher activity levels than students of the control school.

According to Nichols, a major component of physical education class is movement. He noted that the Titusville students spend a significantly larger amount of time moving, than students in the regular phys ed classes.

“Titusville students engage in more physical activities outside of school,” Nichols said. “And youths in the Titusville area also make better nutritional choices.”

Nichols said the results of the study will be presented at a national conference in Indianapolis in March.

Nichols commented that although he has given presentations at many places, it was an honor to come back to Titusville.

By Tom Boyle, Titusville Herald
Monday, November 9, 2009 10:12 PM CST

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

New Research Results from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation just published an extensive study on the relationship between physical activity and academic performance among children and adolescents. The results are parallel to the outcomes we've seen in schools that integrate PE4life! The study found the following statements to be true:
  • Sacrificing physical education for classroom time does not improve academic performance.
  • Kids who are more physically active tend to perform better academically.
  • Kids who are physically fit are likely to have stronger academic performance.

  • Activity breaks can improve cognitive performance and classroom behavior.
Based on the success we've seen in the past few months and this astounding research study, it seems like people are finally starting to "GET IT" - physical activity equals an all around healthy child - physically and mentally! Are people in your area "GETTING IT?"

    Friday, November 6, 2009

    The obesity epedimic hits the military!

    ...Asthma, eyesight and hearing problems are also factors. But about a third of all potential recruits can't join is because they're too fat and out of shape.

    "When you get kids who can't do push-ups, pull-ups or run, this is a fundamental problem not just for the military but for the country," said Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon's director of accessions policy. Many kids are not "taking physical education in school; they're more interested in sedentary activities such as the computer or television. And we have a fast-food mentality in this country."

    Recruiters, then, become part-time tutors and coaches, helping with homework and whipping kids into shape. Some even hold after-school workouts, where teen-agers prepare for basic training. To pass an Army physical fitness test, an 18-year-old male must do 42 push-ups in two minutes, 53 sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in 15 minutes 54 seconds.

    Earlier this year, the National Guard opened a "Patriot Academy" in Indiana, which helps high school dropouts earn a high school diploma after graduating from basic training. In Maryland, the majority of Guard recruiters are also certified substitute teachers, helping recruits with their homework, said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Weeks.

    "We'll go work out at the gym with them to get them in shape," Weeks said. But that's become increasingly challenging. Nationwide, more than one in four adults is classified as obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Mission: Readiness, which comprises 89 retired military leaders including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is pushing Congress to pass the Obama administration's Early Learning Challenge Fund, a program that would grant states $1 billion annually for 10 years for early childhood development programs.

    Educators say preschool programs are one of the best ways to ensure academic success later in life. Military officials think they're one of the best ways to ensure the country has a large pool of people who will be savvy enough to fly helicopters, drive tanks and gather intelligence.
    "You can't wait until high school in order to change a young person," said Kelley, the retired major general. "It has to be done at a very early age, and that's why the need for high quality early learning is so vital."

    What comes to mind when you read this article? Do you believe quality physical education could be the solution to Americans being too overweight to even join the military? If Kelley is right, we should be implementing quality PE as early as preschool. So why aren't we?? 

    Tuesday, November 3, 2009

    Those sneakers are made for walking!

    Visit any American grade school at 3 o’clock on a weekday afternoon and you’re likely to find a dozen or so overweight children sluggishly climbing into their parents’ SUV, only to be greeted with a jumbo size soda, and driven the 5 blocks home.

    Here at PE4life, we’re all about expanding physical activity into the community, and walking to school is a great and simple way to implement this idea. In a time when one third of our children are obese and even more are sedentary, the simple act of walking to and from school every day could make a huge impact on the health of our children.

    Studies have shown that just 30 minutes of exercise a day can: help maintain a healthy weight, prevent juvenile diabetes, reduce blood pressure, provide mental well-being and even prevent cancer. Add a 30 minute walk home on top of quality, daily physical education and we’ll solve the obesity epidemic in no time!

    Unfortunately, we live in an era when you can’t trust your own neighbor, so it’s no surprise that parents have serious reservations about their children walking to school. However, if we educate our children to take the necessary safety precautions, there’s really no reason this can’t be a perfectly safe form of exercise. Here are a few safety tips to share with your children or physical education class on walking to school: 

    • Walk in groups

    • Cross the street where crossing guards are stationed

    • Tell parents the route they take

    • Use sidewalks

    • Pay attention to your surroundings

    • If you're still worried after sharing these tips, walk with the child!

    For some more great resources check out:

    * This article was taken from the PE4life Quarterly Newsletter. To sign up to receive this newsletter click here

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    Shocking statistics of the decline in kids' health and activity!

    Check out these shocking statistics from

    • The average child gets less than 15 minutes of vigorous activity a day.

    • The average U.S. child gets approximately 43 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.

    • The average U.S. child spends 20% of his/her waking time watching TV.

    • Obesity and superobesity are up 36% and 98%, respectively, in the past 20 years.

    • The average child consumes at least 20 ounces of soda pop a day.

    • Thirty-six percent of the children get daily physical education; 36% get two or fewer days.

    • Nine out of ten parents think their children are fit, when only one out of three are.

    • Thirty percent of youths (10-19 years) have negative or neutral attitudes towards physical activity.

    • In a typical physical education class, only 27% of actual physical education time is devoted to motor activity.

    • The average heart rates in a typical 30-minute physical education class range between 90 and 129 beats per minute.

    • The older girls get, the less likely they are to work out.Grade school students are 24% more active than high schoolers.

    • Children exercise less as they get older, boys about 3% less each year; girls, 7.5%.

    • The two biggest reasons kids participate in sport and exercise are fun and socialization.

    • Thirty-six percent of middle school students say that they think that kids who exercise do better in school, about one-third are not sure, and 28% disagree.

    • About 50% of all students report that physical education class time should be increased in the middle school.

    Do any of these statistics surprise you? We all know PE is on the decline and obesity rates are on the incline. What are you doing to help the cause? Many times all it takes to start a movement is one person. Just like the "go green" environmental slogan asks - what's your one thing? Me? I work for a nonprofit organization devoted to improving the quality of physical education around the entire country. :) What's your one thing?

    Wednesday, October 14, 2009

    Worthington City School District uses PE4life as a Resource Parnter

    Check out this article spotlighting Worthington City School District's new physical education program that focuses on helping students learn a lifetime of fitness techniques.

    They used PE4life and other resources to get this program rolling!

    Wednesday, October 7, 2009

    2009 Resource Conference was a Success!

    We've spent many months tirelessly planning for this event, so of course it's incredibly rewarding to see it go off without a hitch! There were more than 150 school and community leaders and 30 plus vendors in attendance, which is new record for us. Julie Foudy joined us on Sunday evening at the PEP Rally Dinner and gave an awesome presentation about leadership and teamwork. We had breakout session topics on everything from designing your PE program with very little money to how to get your administrators' support, plus vendors showing off the newest, most innovative exercise equipment on the market! It truly was a great couple of days!

    Although it would be nice to take a moment to relax, there's just no time! We're already busy planning next year's event to ensure it's even bigger and better. We're probably one of the few organizations that take the feedback we receive from the conference and directly apply it to the next year's conference. So thanks to all who filled out their evaluations (even if we did have to bribe you with super cool event t-shirts :)).

    We hope you learned as much from us at this conference as we did you! Let us know – what’s the one thing you’re taking from the conference and implementing into your school or community? My biggest revelation… wear your comfy sneakers on event day!

    Melanie Sheppard
    Marketing Assistant, PE4life