Some Schools Zapping Child Fatness With Fitness Centers

By Susan Jones | August 1, 2014 | 8:09 AM EDT

The National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils says it aims to install fitness centers in every school, through public-private partnerships. (Photo from NFGFC webiste)

( - As the Obama administration fights childhood obesity with burdensome school nutrition rules and regulations, some states are taking a different approach.

Republican Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday announced that three New Mexico schools will get new fitness centers through a partnership between the state of New Mexico and the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils (NFGFC).

“Childhood obesity affects 16 percent of our children here in New Mexico,” said Governor Martinez. “These schools have taken the lead in helping students to get and stay fit, and we are so proud to support them by establishing new fitness centers to help continue their progress."

Before receiving the fitness equipment, the two middle schools and one elementary school submitted a plan for how they would use it to improve their physical education programs.

The $100,000 state-of-the-art fitness centers, including strength training equipment, cardio fitness equipment and interactive exercise games, will be installed in the schools' existing structure.

"The fight to stop childhood obesity in its tracks is something we can all support,” said NFGFC Chairman Jake Steinfeld. “Academics and fitness go hand in hand, and when we give schools tools like these, we can build strong bodies and minds while boosting confidence, self-esteem, and focus in the classroom.”

The fitness centers are fully funded through public/private partnerships with companies such as Coca-Cola and AOL and do not rely on taxpayer dollars or state funding.

In just two years, the NFGFC says it has installed 23 fitness centers in schools in eight states. It says its goal is to eventually bring its fitness centers to all of the nation's schools.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration's effort to improve school nutrition has run into objections from some congressional Republicans, who want to provide a temporary, one-year waiver for schools that are having trouble complying with the new federal nutrition rules.

"The new USDA regulations are far-reaching and have come too fast for local school districts to swallow," said Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), who chairs a House Agriculture subcommittee. "As such, they have upset the economics of the school meals program by driving the cost of the plate up while pushing participation down. This is causing some school systems to abandon the school meals program altogether.”

Michelle Obama, speaking in May, called Republican efforts to ease the new school lunch rules "unacceptable to me, not just as first lady, but as a mother." She mentioned the "health crisis" facing the country.

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