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Be Active launches program to fight obesity in schools

DATE: CONTACT:
March 20, 2008 Lee Hobson, (919) 287-7008
  lee@beactivenc.org This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

FOR RELEASE

Be Active launches program to fight obesity in schools; new study shows system works

CHARLOTTE — Be Active North Carolina unveiled a dynamic new program Thursday designed to teach the state’s young people how to have fun and become healthier all at the same time.

Recent studies indicate that 54.1% of North Carolina youths do not meet the recommended amount of physical activities each day. Be Active HOPS seeks to change that statistic, with a fresh approach and new tools designed to get young people moving.

The exciting new program, called Be Active HOPS, is a unique blend of media, cutting-edge technology and good old-fashioned physical activity. The program uses:
• Vibrant video presentations using music and graphics to lead students through exercise sessions.
• Celebrities who appear as the video instructors. They coach, encourage and inspire kids to get moving.
• Non-traditional techniques such as yoga, dance, Pilates, martial arts to engage students.
• A variety of activities and expertise that physical education instructors love.
Be Active North Carolina and its partners believe the system is so effective at fighting childhood obesity and other problems related to sedentary lifestyles that it should be available in all North Carolina public schools and community sites.

“Such a goal does represent a challenge,” said Ben Blankenship, Be Active’s Chief Executive Officer. “But there is little time to waste. We simply can’t afford to wait any longer while the problem of childhood obesity in our state continues to grow.”

The program is a unique opportunity to impact the state’s disturbing statistics about children and exercise. It engages students on a new level never before used in public schools. Each class uses cardiovascular and strength-training exercises that allow teachers to step outside of their traditional comfort zone. This gives students a wider variety of opportunities to be active than they would find in a normal school physical education setting, allowing them the chance to find an activity they truly enjoy and increasing their chances of living an active lifestyle.

“We live in a world where technology provides so many opportunities in other areas. It’s about time physical education caught up,” said Cindy Sisson Hensley, president of HOPSports, which has a long record of working together with schools across the nation, as well as professional leagues such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

Be Active CEO Blankenship agreed.

“Part of any successful initiative is effectively communicating with your audience. In this program youths are our audience and with HOPSports we are finally speaking their language,” he said.

Be Active introduced the system, along with the results of an independent evaluation measuring the systems effectiveness, during an event in Charlotte that included a live demonstration of Be Active HOPS by area school children. Also on hand were representatives from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which had two middle schools participate in the pilot study; and the Carolina Panthers, who are funding a mobile HOPSports system called FitBlitz that will serve 32 area Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

Be Active HOPS is currently used by selected schools and community centers involving roughly 52,000 students throughout North Carolina. Supporters hope to see that number increase dramatically.

Be Active HOPS offers benefits for students and teachers. On Thursday, Be Active announced the results of an impartial four-month study conducted by researchers from three North Carolina universities: Appalachian State University, East Carolina University and UNC-Greensboro. The study evaluated the effectiveness of Be Active HOPS and found it to be an excellent tool for combating childhood obesity. Generally, the study found that the program provides a more efficient use of physical education class time
than traditional methods; that youth were more active during Be Active HOPS classes versus traditional physical education classes, while girls and those who are overweight benefit even more; and that the program is also cost-effective.

Specifically the study found:
• Youth were 55% more active during Be Active HOPS classes versus traditional physical education classes.
• Girls increased their levels of activity and intensity with Be Active HOPS by 68% over traditional physical education.
• Generally, overweight and obese students are the least active during traditional physical education. Though this trend continued, overweight and obese students were 23% more active during Be Active HOPS than healthy-weight students were during traditional physical education.
• All Be Active HOPS lessons exceeded the gold standard for moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) by up to 29% – in some cases nearly doubling minimum standards.
• Survey results reveal that an average school could expect to see a return on investment of 38%.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson, who was not at the demonstration but has followed the pilot program, said she’s impressed and encouraged with the results.

“Students who are physically active are not only healthier, but do better in school,” Atkinson said. “We appreciate our partnership with Be Active North Carolina and look forward to continuing this relationship to ensure that students learn positive life habits when they are young.”

Blankenship said Be Active chose to work with HOPSports because they have over twenty years of experience in youth fitness. Their ability to bring 21st Century learning to physical education equips instructors with state-of-the-art technology that includes a full media center, hi-tech sports equipment and an online class management system.

Debra Kaclik, Health and Physical Education Specialist for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, said the system has been a big success with the students.

“The teaching modules are captivating and engage students in learning,” she said. “Who wouldn’t want to get moving when you experience the upbeat music, the visuals bigger than life, and the variety of sports and activities offered.”

Supporters say they understand funding will be needed to put enough of the equipment in place to achieve necessary results. But already, sponsors are lining up to offer support.

Riley Fields, Director of Community Relations for the Carolina Panthers, said the team intends to continue its support.

“Youth fitness is a cornerstone initiative for both the Carolina Panthers and the NFL,” Fields said. “We’re delighted to help school children and their families experience Be Active HOPS on a year-round basis.”

For more information about Be Active HOPS and to get a copy of the study, please visit www.beactivenc.org/hops.

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