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  • Just Say No to Dodgeball
    (Curing Childhood Obesity, Part II)
  • Tip of the Week: Seasonal Weight Training
  • Chat Live with Kathy Smith!
  • Recipe of the Week: Healthy Fruit Sorbet
  • Last Chance to Win Cash and Other Cool Prizes!
  • New Year, New You WOWY™ Style Is Here!

"This generation of kids is the first in 100 years to have a lower life expectancy than their parents."

Ken Reed, on the childhood obesity epidemic in America

Just Say No to Dodgeball . . . and Other Ways to Cure the Childhood Obesity Epidemic, Part II
This is the second part of an interview with PE4life's Ken Reed. For Part I,
see Issue #131

By Denis Faye

"The vast majority of schools would probably still fit into 'old school' —that is if they even have PE. Some schools have dropped it altogether. There are even districts across the country that are building new schools without gyms."
—Ken Reed, from Part I


In Part I, Ken Reed, PE4life's Director of Marketing and Director of the Center for the Advancement of Physical Education (CAPE), talked about the "New PE," a model for physical education in schools that promotes individual achievement, as opposed to "old school PE," which is "all about calisthenics and picking teams for competitive sports and dodgeball." PE4life, a not-for-profit organization founded in 2000, is devoted to developing quality, daily physical education programs for children.

Beachbody: I'm trying to picture my old high school gym teacher doing this stuff [the "New PE"] and I'm not seeing it. Do you find a lot of people are resistant to this change?

Ken Reed: I don't know if I'd use the term "a lot" but there are definitely physical education instructors that are resistant to change. A lot of them have traditionally been coaches and they use the same coaching athletic model in PE as they do with their sports teams. They're really two different things. You're talking about elite athletes in competitive sports versus trying to improve the lifestyles and long-term wellness of the entire student body. So, like we've mentioned earlier, we've moved away from the pure sports model to a physical fitness model that includes sports as just one part. But we do stress lifetime sports such as tennis and hiking and biking and things like that. These PE4life institutes have fitness centers that look very similar to what you'd see going into a health club in terms of stair-stepper machines and that type of thing.

BB: What was PE4life's involvement with the creation of PEP (Physical Education Program) grants?

KR: We were one of the leaders, but I don't want to say the only leader. We were originally founded by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, but now we're an independent 501c3. We still work with them on National Lobbying Day. Every May we have a National PE Day where we bring in celebrity athletes and PE advocates from all walks of life and talk to legislators on the Hill about the importance of PE and funding for PE. The primary focus is on PEP grants, which this year totaled $69 million.

BB: When a school applies for a PEP grant, are they required to institute the "New PE"?

KR: No. There are certain stipulations in the PEP grant, but money can go to training; it can go to equipment needs. It can go to facility needs. A lot of the PEP grant winners have actually come to our institutes for training, but there's no requirement that they do.

BB: What is CAPE?

KR: CAPE was launched at National PE Day last year as a subset under the umbrella of PE4life. The thinking behind CAPE was that to effect change, we're going to have to do some public policy work. We wanted to create a public policy think tank focused on physical education that would put out position papers and reports. If you go to our Web site, you'll find the "Blueprint for Change." That was the first thing that CAPE put out on National PE Day about what the issues and roadblocks are and what needs to happen. We publish op eds and things and the plan is to start doing an annual report card on the state of PE. CAPE is kind of a research and public policy arm for physical education.

We'll do some research ourselves, but we'll also collect and integrate existing research out there and publish the key findings and position papers for use locally at state levels and nationally in a variety of ways with media and legislators, and so on.

BB: What are some of the specific benefits of physical education besides just being fit?

KR: One of the challenges we face is getting cut in schools because parents and administrators say they have to focus on academics. Well, there are some good studies now showing the connection between physical fitness and academic performance.

There's a researcher at Harvard named Dr. John Ratey who does brain research in physical fitness. He's an avid believer in the value of physical fitness for brain functioning and calls physical activity "Miracle Growth for the brain."

There's a standardized test for fitness at schools called Fitnessgram that has six categories of physical fitness. The kids that score highest on that Fitnessgram also score highest on academic achievement. It's a position paper CAPE is going to do in the coming months, the connection between physical activity and academic performance.

BB: Do your programs go beyond PE? Are you trying to educate parents?

KR: Definitely. If we could get the soccer mom phenomenon working on physical education, we could rally parents and that would be a great advantage. We have a national endorsement by the PTA on the need for PE4life-type programs, so we're working with them.

But parents are a challenge because it's a psychosocial thing. A lot of the parents need a lot more physical activity, too. Because they're inactive, they don't feel comfortable pushing their kids to be more active, so there are a lot of challenges dealing with parents on this issue.

BB: How'd you do in PE?

KR: Fortunately or unfortunately, I was one of the top jocks in my school, so I was a kid who loved dodgeball days when I could pummel the poor, unfortunate kids, but looking back, I can see why those kids dreaded dressing for PE and hated dodgeball and hated getting picked last on teams. I would never recommend the old way of doing PE at all.

BB: What changed your mind?

KR: I got a doctorate degree in physical education and sport administration. Through that, my eyes were opened. You hear this old line about sports building character and being good for kids. My thought was, if that's true, why are we just focusing on the elite athletes? I started doing research on the decline of intramural sports—they've almost gone the way of the dinosaur. I discovered most kids drop out of youth sports by age 12. Once you start looking at these statistics on what's happening to our kids' fitness levels, there's no way you can condone or support the old way of PE.

For a recent related article on the sad state of physical education classes in today's schools—the lack of respect for PE, insufficiently trained PE instructors, etc.—see CNN.com's "More Schools Benching P.E."

Tip of the Week: Seasonal Weight Training
By Steve Edwards

If you are an athlete in a seasonal sport, try to schedule some weight training even during the season. Doing just your sport may create muscular imbalances and you may lose strength over the course of the season. Keep these sessions minimal, as hard training will break you down further than your sport already does. One set of 15 to failure, per body part, once per week, should be enough for maintenance during the season.


Recipe of the Week: Healthy Fruit Sorbet

Funny thing is, if you're like the rest of us, you've probably searched the world over for a healthy alternative to ice cream. Well, search no more! Beachbody member Rebecca R. has come up with a recipe that requires you search no further than your fruit bowl. Sweet tooth, eat your heart out (exercising moderation, of course).

Thanks Rebecca! I'm sure many of our members would think seriously about nominating you for sainthood, but you'll have to settle for that great Beachbody T-shirt!

2 bananas
3 cups frozen berries (your choice)
3 Tbsp. orange juice

Peel bananas and wrap in aluminum foil. Freeze. Remove from foil and blend with berries and orange juice. Serves four.

If you have a recipe you think is Beachbody material, send it to recipes@beachbody.com. If we publish it, we'll send you a free T-shirt.

New Year, New You WOWY™ Style Is Here!

During the month of January, WOWY.com will give away a $100 Gift Certificate a day—every day—to one lucky WOWY participant. Only those WOWY members who have submitted a photo of themselves will be eligible to win, so get a jump on the month by uploading your photo now. Check out WOWY.com today for the official announcement, rules, and regulations.

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