The year 2013 will be remembered as a win for physical activity and wellness promotion. Not only have studies begun to show a leveling off of obesity rates among preschoolers and teens, but research continues to confirm the benefits of physical activity on health and academic achievement.
Fire Up Your Feet is a program that is making great strides in getting schools and families active and moving. Fire Up Your Feet is a core program of Safe Routes to School National Partnership available to any elementary and middle school (grades k-8) nationally. Made possible in partnership with Kaiser Permanente, this program offers free resources, an online activity tracker, a school fundraising organizer, and more, all aimed at increasing physical activity before, during and after-school for students, parents, school staff and teachers. The National PTA is our family engagement partner.
In select sponsored regions, Fire Up Your Feet also offers Fall and Spring Activity Challenges aimed at promoting friendly competition to help increase physical activity. This year’s Fall Activity Challenge wrapped up October 31. Cash awards of between $200 and $5,000 were distributed to over 148 schools across the country to help support Safe Routes to School programs and other school health and wellness initiatives.
Over 3,172 parents at 478 schools participated in Fire Up Your Feet Fall Challenge. In the words of Stephanie Bertino, a parent at Myford Elementary School in Tustin, CA, “the students have been really "fired" up about being active. It has been impressive and rewarding to see the number of students participating. I've even had a parent come to tell me that they started to exercise due to this program being promoted at a school!”
For some students, teachers and parents, the program also provides the opportunity to integrate “physical activity moments” into their school’s science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum. For example, at Hosford Middle School in Portland, Oregon, self-described 'Tech Guy' and Fire Up Your Feet Coordinator Luke Wisher is committed to giving students a fresh look at the way technology can intersect with building a healthier community.
At Hosford, Wisher teamed up with the school wellness program to promote the Fall Challenge. Each wellness student was given a Fire Up Your Feet handout to take home and share with their family. Once a parent registered and added their child, students were able to go online and use the Fire Up Your Feet Activity Tracker to track activities they recorded in their planner for that week. Parents could also track activity for themselves and their children at home.
Technology based solutions to maintaining physical activity are becoming increasingly common. A recent survey done by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project showed that seven out of ten people surveyed tracked some aspect of their health regularly. The free and easy to use Fire Up your Feet activity tracker enables parents, teachers and children to join the activity tracking revolution!
Albert Einstein once said “life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Learn more about how the Fire Up Your Feet activity tracker is helping keep families and school staff moving one step, one day at a time at www.fireupyourfeet.org. Register and stay committed to being healthy throughout the winter months. From there, it's just a ‘hop, skip and a jump’ into the Fire Up Your Feet Spring Activity Challenge in April or May, depending on your state or region.
About the author
Rosie Mesterhazy, M.P.H. (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the School and Family Engagement Manager at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Her core areas of expertise include in-school and grassroots program coordination, building community coalitions, working with diverse communities, and information technology development.