I’m in Atlanta, fighting childhood obesity. Right now, experts fear this may be the first generation of children who will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due in large part to the childhood obesity epidemic. More than 23 million of our nation’s childrenand teenagers are considered overweight or obese. It’s an epidemic that continues to plague our country, but it can be fought and won.
I understand all too well how a sedentary lifestyle can negatively impact a person. As a kid, I was fat with a bad stutter and had zero confidence. But when I turned 13 years old, my dad bought me a set of weights, and it changed my life forever. Not only did the weights build my body, but it built my confidence and self esteem. Over the years, working out became my passion, a passion that I want to instill with kids and families across America.
Nationwide, the direct health cost to fight this disease is close to $14 billion a year.However, through education, motivation and inspiration, we can reverse this epidemic.
To help combat this problem, the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils began rolling out the National Champion Schools program state by state. Last year we awarded fitness centers to schools in California, Massachusetts, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania. This program awards a total of three schools (elementary or middle) with new state-of-the-art Live Positively Fitness Centers. Schools are required to show how they promote student physical activity and wellness in innovative and inspiring ways.
Governors on both sides of the aisle throughout the country are recognizing the importance physical fitness for their kids and have welcomed our program into their states. In fact, following our Atlanta visit, we head to West Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware, where the governors of these respective states will join me at local schools to cut the ribbons on newly-won fitness centers. What it boils down to is this: This is not a Democrat or Republican issue — this is a kids issue.
Programs like this are having an enormous impact. Seven years ago, I launched an annual, month-long fitness challenge in California, and by 2011, more than 1.4 million students were participating. We got children motivated and put them on a path to a healthier lifestyle.