I’m not sure exactly at what age exercise becomes a “chore,” something on the to-do list, a habit that must be formed, an activity that has a large membership fee.
It wasn’t that long ago that exercise was just called “play” or “tag” or “chase” or “riding bikes around the neighborhood”. When I entered the sixth grade, there was no playground at my school. What a shock to the system; no monkey bars, no field for kick-ball, no wall for handball, no tetherballs, nothing for play. The only time I ever saw a ball at school was during P.E. class, which meant it was for learning, not for fun. And then there were the uniforms…
Now I remember, it was right about the time I turned 11 years old and went to the sixth grade that physical activity became a chore. It was something that I was forced to wear special clothes for, forced to perform for an academic grade. Playtime was over. The natural state of play and physical activity was over.
Fuel Up to Play 60 is a program born from the initiative of the National Dairy Council and the NFL, who are making great efforts to get kids across the nation to make small changes that really add up to their health. Oliver Helfrich, known as Mr. Helfrich Eastridge Elementary in the Warren schools spoke to me his students and their participation in FUTP60 during this first year. He’s noticed his students grasping the importance of balance, “It’s all about a healthy balance of food and play,” he says, “[the FUTP60 program] champions kids with tasks to get involved in making good decisions for their health.”
Mr. Helfrich says that he’s jealous that such a program exists and is available for students in the schools and that it wasn’t available when he was a kid. “Fuel Up to Play 60 puts a foundation into their blood for being healthy. They sign a pledge, they say it and their living it.”
The pledge? Fuel: I will energize my body and mind by eating healthy. Play: I will be active for 60 minutes each day. Fuel Up to Play 60: I will eat healthy, be active and have fun with my friends to help make my school an even better place.
The K-4 Physical Education program at Eastridge is enjoying their first year as a Fuel Up to Play 60 school. The program has brought many great opportunities for their students. Each child is learning about tracking their steps through the use of pedometers during each class, they’re hoping that each student will step their way through the distance of a marathon during the school year, 40 minutes at a time.
A team of students from Mr. Helfrich’s classes took their FUTP60 fun on the road twice this year; first they visited the Indianapolis Colts practice facility where the students fueled up with a healthy meal and then played in the fieldhouse. Afterwards, the Dairy Association shared a presentation on healthy eating and living. Most recently, students at Eastridge used blenders and created their own nutritious smoothies using a variety of fruits and vegetables and then they shared their smoothies with attendees of the American Education Week Celebration.
It was the district nutritionist that first introduced the Warren schools to FUTP60 but many other schools in Indiana are already onboard and enjoying the health and playful benefits of the program. If your child’s school is a FUTP60 school, find out how to get them more involved, ask questions about their participation, bring the fun home and incorporate the pledge into your own home.
Kids love the program because they have opportunities to win prizes and earn visits from VIP guests. Educators love Fuel Up to Play 60 because it allocates great funding (up to $4,000) towards programing, works well alongside school wellness policies and get’s their students invested in their own health and wellbeing. Parents love FUTP60 because of the positive difference it makes on the health of their children.
If your child’s school doesn’t have a Fuel Up to Play 60 advisor, Mr. Helfrich recommends you visit www.FuelUpToPlay60.com and click on “I’m a supporter” to do some reading to bring the idea to your school administrator. The website is a fantastic resource for students and parents regardless of your school participation.
Fuel Up to Play 60 is all about play. Play is exercise and sometimes we need to take the basic, intuitive force of childhood exercise and use that as the basis for learning how to take care of our bodies as we grow and how what we put into our bodies directly affects what our bodies can do when we play. Now get out there and fuel up, then go play 60 minutes or more!