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Thank You Vermont Olympian Andy Newell for Fighting Obesity and Promoting PE!

by Tina Z. on Friday, June 6, 2014

Olympic Skier Andy Newell of Shaftsbury, Vermont joined forces with the American Heart Association and American Cancer Society this year to help promote greater opportunities for physical activity and physical education. Andy shared that his PE teacher was a source of inspiration.

From a young age I was driven by physical accomplishments, not just from within but with the motivation of teachers and coaches who helped me achieve more than I believed myself capable of. I particularly remember my P.E. coach, Mr. Harrington, as a source of inspiration. He instilled in us a love for exercise not only as an outlet for competition, but also for self-improvement and building confidence.

During each grade of Elementary School, I looked forward to the one-mile run more than anything else as a chance to showcase the physical fitness I had gained. During one particular year I was ready to sit out the one mile run because of a knee surgery until Mr. Harrington taught me an even more important life lesson. He explained to me that competition wasn’t always about winning, but doing YOUR best on that particular day and he cheered me on as I used crutches to make my way around the course. The mindset and confidence that was taught to me that day has helped carry me on to a career as an Olympic athlete.

Right now in Vermont kids face tougher challenges. PE classes have been cut back. Nearly 27% of Vermont children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. Kids are less and less physically active than ever before, with every distraction available to them. And 29% of students report playing video or computer games for three or more hours per day.

We need to make physical activity a priority for kids. Right now, Vermont elementary and middle schools are only required to provide PE twice a week, and there is no minimum time required. Only 40% of our high school students attend at least one PE class a week. This pales in comparison to the national guidelines of at least 30 minutes of PE a day for middle school and 45 for high school. Our kids need greater access to recreational opportunities inside and outside of school. Not only can this improve their physical well-being, but it is shown that physical activity and cardiovascular fitness can improve cognitive function and even improve performance on standardized tests.

Vermont legislators have an opportunity to improve PE time in schools and provide limited liability to schools so that they can open their doors to recreation during non-school hours. Research shows that people who are able to easily access recreational facilities exercise 38% more than those without easy access. Let’s make it easier for our kids to feel good and learn better. Let’s make sure this generation has the opportunity to learn how active play outside can be so much more fulfilling and more fun than TV or video games.

The confidence a child can get from being more physically active can help push them farther than they thought possible – they may even be the next Olympian.

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