Obesity doesn’t discriminate, it affects us all and is now considered the single greatest threat to our children. In fact, experts fear that this generation of kids may be the first to live shorter lives than their parents. Right now, more than 70% of adults are considered overweight or obese, as well as 1 in 3 American kids and teens.

Obesity also leads to serious ailments. It’s been linked to 60 chronic diseases including cancer, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease and a variety of sleep disorders. This preventative disease is one of the most prolific killers in our country and is a contributing factor to 300,000 deaths annually in the U.S.

To complicate matters even further, we as a nation are dealing with a pandemic that also doesn’t discriminate. COVID-19 has affected all age groups and doctors around the nation have reported that people with co-morbidities such as obesity are more negatively affected by this virus. We know for a fact that underlying health problems including obesity have exacerbated the toll the virus has taken on our at-risk citizens.   

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Stuart Academy and Frost Academy were given a brand new, state-of-the-art fitness center for demonstrating new and innovative ways of promoting student physical activity and wellness.

I’ve dedicated the last 40 years of my life to providing solutions for positive change. And during this unprecedented time, I believe exercise and physical activity are more important than ever. Not only as a means for general health but potentially as a means to stave off COVID-19. While physical activity won’t stop someone from contracting the coronavirus, it does play a role in keeping you healthy

One of my ideas to help kids get in shape was the creation of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils (NFGFC), which helps motivate and inspire kids to make fitness a priority in their lives. Each year, our program gifts brand new, $100,000 state-of-the-art DON’T QUIT! fitness centers to elementary and middle schools across the country. Because each fitness center is financed through public/private partnerships with companies like The Coca-Cola Company, Anthem Foundation, Wheels Up and Nike, it doesn’t cost taxpayers a dime.

As a result of these crucial partnerships, we’ve been able to roll this program out to 36 states so far and have delivered more than 110 fitness centers to schools. We won’t stop until we visit all 50 states. We are building a nation that, through innovation and a “Don’t Quit” attitude, will boast some of the fittest and healthiest kids in the world!

I’ve dedicated my life to helping Americans get and stay fit, but in order to make a systemic change, we must focus our efforts on children. And this year, children in Kentucky are going to see what fitness can do to change their lives!

I’m proud to say that three Kentucky schools were selected as DON’T QUIT! Fitness Champions for demonstrating new and innovative ways of promoting student physical activity and wellness. The three winning schools are Stuart Academy/Frost Sixth-Grade Academy in Louisville, Hiseville Elementary in Hiseville, and Wurtland Middle School in Wurtland. 

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To honor this great achievement, I joined forces with governors and school representatives at the winning schools each year to cut the ribbon on newly installed fitness centers. However, due to COVID-19, the NFGFC developed a new plan – one that ensured the safety of everyone involved while still creating a fun celebration! The result? Our first-ever “virtual ribbon-cutting tour” where I, along with Gov. Andy Beshear, school staff and students, came together on a virtual platform to celebrate the opening of the DON’T QUIT! Fitness Centers.   (View the ribbon cutting program at https://natgovfit.org/dontquit-ky/)

While this year’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies were a little different, they still delivered a roadmap to fitness for kids across the state. I’ve always believed that if you give schools the tools, amazing things will happen. When given the opportunity and support, kids naturally strive to be more physically active. When kids build healthier, stronger bodies, they also gain an enormous amount of confidence and self-esteem, which will help them excel in school and in life. I am happy to say that Kentucky students now have a strong foundation to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. 

Jake Steinfeld serves as the chairman of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, whose sole mission is to provide DON’T QUIT! Fitness Centers to elementary and middle schools throughout the United States. To learn more about the DON’T QUIT! Campaign, visit www.natgovfit.org.