First Lady brings `Let`s Move` to Chicago, Healthy CPS launches - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Michelle Obama brings `Let`s Move` to Chicago, Healthy CPS launch

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Michelle Obama celebrated the third anniversary of "Let's Move" at McCormick Place Thursday. Mayor Emanuel also announced "Healthy CPS"--a program promoting better lifestyles for students.

The Chicago Public Schools action plan states schools are to increase recreation space and double the number of school gardens, as well as allow more time for kids to actually get up and move around.

Imagine students learning their ABCs while dancing, or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.

Some schools are using both methods of instruction, and Michelle Obama would like to see more of them use other creative ways to help students get the recommended hour of daily exercise.

In Chicago Thursday, the first lady announced a new public-private partnership to help schools do just that. "Let's Move Active Schools" starts with a website, www.letsmoveschools.org , where school officials and others can sign up to get started.

The first lady came to Chicago Thursday with a very serious message for Chicago students.

"Only one in three of our kids is active everyday," the first lady said.

She quickly changed from a suit to workout gear and instead of talking about it, she worked out with more than 6,000 Chicago Public School students.

Mrs. Obama said too many penny-pinched schools have either cut spending on physical education or eliminated it outright to put the money toward classroom instruction. But the first lady who starts most days with a workout -- and other advocates of helping today's largely sedentary kids move their bodies -- say that's a false choice, since studies that show exercise helps youngsters focus and do well in school.

The effort is one of the newest parts of Mrs. Obama's 3-year-old campaign against childhood obesity, known as "Let's Move," which she has spent the week promoting.

She told the students to start now because life is all about the healthy choices we make.

"Whether you fill your body with chips and candy or fruits and vegetables, that's on you," the first lady said.

"With each passing year, schools feel like it's just getting harder to find the time, the money and the will to help our kids be active. But just because it's hard doesn't mean we should stop trying," the first lady said. "It means we should try harder. It means that all of us -- not just educators, but businesses and nonprofits and ordinary citizens -- we all need to dig a little deeper, start getting more creative."

She was joined at McCormick Place in her hometown by several Olympians, including gymnasts Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas, sprinter Allyson Felix, tennis player Serena Williams and decathlete Ashton Eaton, along with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, whose left leg was amputated above the knee when she was a child, and other athletes. Thousands of students from city middle schools also were being brought in for the event.

The athletes told their young listeners they succeeded in sports because they played their favorite games outside when they were younger.

"I have to say, growing up I loved playing lots of things," Serena Williams said. "I would probably say dodge ball was a way for me to work on my sprints and my reaction and my reaction."

"When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me to stay outside and do something active," Bo Jackson said. "She always said if you're not active then you're usually doing something you have no business doing."

Research shows that daily exercise has a positive influence on academic performance, but kids today spend too much time sitting, mostly in school but also outside the classroom while watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Federal guidelines recommend that children ages 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, which can be racked up through multiple spurts of activity throughout the day.

The White House says the most current data, from 2007, shows that just 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provided daily physical education.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he's proof of the link between exercise and academic performance. As a boy, he said, he had a hard time sitting still in class but that exercise helped him focus.

"What's true for me is true for many of our nation's children," he said in an interview.

Duncan, who played basketball professionally in Australia, said the choice is not between physical activity or academics, especially with about one-third of U.S. kids either overweight or obese and at higher risk for life-threatening illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.

"It's got to be both," he said. Duncan cited the examples of students learning the alphabet while dancing or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.

Mrs. Obama called on school staff, families and communities to help get 50,000 schools, about half the number of public schools in the U.S., involved in the program over the next five years.

The President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation will oversee the program. Funding and other resources will come from Nike Inc., the GENYOUth Foundation, ChildObesity180, Kaiser Permanente and the General Mills Foundation.

Under the new initiative, modest grants will be available from the Education Department to help some programs get started. The GENYOUth Foundation and ChildObesity180 also will be awarding grants.

Nike has committed $50 million to the effort over the next five years; the remaining groups together have pledged more than $20 million.

Williams said it's important to structure the activity so that it doesn't feel like a workout.

"I had fun and I didn't realize it was work," she said about her years of practice before becoming one of America's top tennis players.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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