Dozens of Pennsylvania middle schools are on the vanguard of a health and nutrition revolution that could dramatically reduce the body mass index of teenagers by increasing cardiovascular fitness, aerobic activity, muscle strength, bone density and flexibility with 30 to 60 minutes a day of vigorous activity.
Pennsylvania Health Secretary Everette James and Education Secretary Gerald Zahorchak have introduced a statewide initiative that will reward some schools with $15,000 physical education grants for developing programs to achieve this goal.
All Pennsylvania schools receiving federal funds for after-school and summer programs have a mandate to get students from grades 6 to 8 moving around for an hour a day. What's innovative here is that Pennsylvania is offering financial incentives to middle schools that succeed in reducing the body mass index of their students. The money comes from federal block grants and from organizations with an interest in a healthy population.
In recent years, the Point Marion, Fayette County, school district has reduced the body mass index of its students by 20 percent by adjusting school lunch menus and increasing students' daily physical activity, so there is a record of success for other schools to emulate.
Statewide 40 schools will be chosen to receive the Active Schools grant. These schools are on the road to reversing the grim health statistics that prompted the grants in the first place.