As the national spotlight turns to combating the childhood obesity epidemic, Fire Up Your Feet and Kaiser Permanente are recognizing schools across the country that offer opportunities for physical activity before, during and after class.
Thousands of students, families and staff at more than 400 schools around the country participated in the Fall 2013 Fire Up Your Feet Activity Challenge, earning more than $35,000 in awards. In California, 23 schools won challenge awards ranging from $100 to a top prize of $5,700. Tulita Elementary in Redondo Beach was recognized for its programs to engage students in health and fitness—including a Walking School Bus program, Running Club and Student Wellness Council.
“Rates of childhood obesity have more than doubled in the last thirty years—meaning that our kids are more likely to suffer from diabetes, hypertension and other chronic disease. Schools, parents and health care providers have to work together to help children get the 60 minutes of daily physical activity that their young bodies need,” said Dr. Barbara Carnes, pediatrician and area medical director for Kaiser Permanente’s South Bay Medical Center.
Tulita Elementary’s Walking School Bus program organizes parent volunteers to walk students to school twice a week. Currently, 50 students participate in the program, which provides valuable social time in addition to physical fitness. The Running Club meets three days per week and engages over 100 students—not to mention parents, who often join their children for a morning run or walk! Finally, the Student Wellness Council engages fourth and fifth grade students who are interested in making their school a healthier place to learn. These programs do more than keep students physically fit—research shows that exercise during childhood improves concentration, cognitive ability and social connection.
“We recently submitted our application to receive the 2014 Bronze National Recognition Award through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation,” says Christina Giguiere, principal of Tulita Elementary. “We take action and make changes to our policies and programs to improve students' physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being at Tulita.”
This spring, a total of $30,000 will be awarded to participating California K-8 schools. Challenge Awards help to support walking school bus programs, the purchase of bike racks, safety vests, incentives for Walking Wednesdays, traffic safety countermeasures to help promote more walking and biking, and much more.