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Jam-a-Minute: State first in national fitness effort

Kenny Kemp
Richmond Elementary School preschoolers (front, from left)Andrew Workman, Daelyn Jones and Sophie Rhinehart, all 4, participated in a nationwide fitness effort Thursday morning.
Kenny Kemp Richmond Elementary Principal Terry Sauvageot dances with the student body Thursday morning as part of a nationwide Jam-A-Minute campaign to combat childhood obesity.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Dancing was part of the curriculum at Richmond Elementary School on Thursday morning.

Principal Terry Sauvageot joined the student body in the gym to dance to the radio hit, "Call Me Maybe," and other songs, as part of a nationwide initiative to encourage fitness and healthy habits in children.

"Why are we jammin'?" Savageot asked the crowd in-between dance moves.

"Because it's good for us,!" one student yelled. "It makes us strong," another replied.

People across the country vowed to simultaneously get their heart rates up at 10 a.m. on Thursday to spread awareness about the Just-A-Minute program, which integrates exercise into daily activities in an attempt to combat childhood obesity.

Acacia Fields, a fifth grader at Richmond, helped lead the dance, and said her teachers talk about the benefits of exercise often.

"We learn a lot about your cardiac workouts and things like that. Not every workout can be fun, but today's was," she said.

West Virginia had more people participate in the 60-second workout than any other state, with 124,141 residents signed in the online registry as of Thursday evening. That's about 8 percent of the population.

Colorado was in second place with 1.6 percent of its population taking part.

In 2011, 29 percent of children in West Virginia were obese, according to a WVU study. That means they are heavier than 95 percent of children the same height and age.

 "We are blown away by West Virginia. What they did is amazing. They are the model for what we want every state to do," said Patty Howell, JAM president. "It's a great way to start the conversation with kids and parents about being healthy. What West Virginia did is what this is all about -- getting the community together to be healthier. It not only benefits the state, but the entire nation."

The JAMmin Across America event set a world record with 1,290,343 people taking a minute out of their day to get up and exercise. 

"It's the kids' world record because they are at the forefront of the campaign. Every school set their own record, and every state set their own record, and together, we set a world record," Howell said. "Now, we're going to strive to break it every year."

Mandy Winebrenner, a physical education teacher at T.A. Lowery Elementary in Jefferson County, will be rewarded a $1,000 cash prize for her service as the state's leader.

"We Jam-A-Minute everyday at our school, and the kids love it. We drop what we're doing and dedicate our time to our health," Winebrenner said. "I sent out so many emails to superintendents across the state hoping they were as excited as I was about this opportunity, and the response was amazing. Today we showed the rest of the country that we do value fitness."

The campaign served as a celebration of the end of Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and is an extension of Michelle Obama's Let's Move program, which provides support for more physical activity in schools and healthier meal options.

West Virginia Schools Superintendent Jorea Marple, who has been pushing for teachers to add 15 extra minutes of daily physical activity in schools, wants Thursday's event to become more frequent.

"Thanks to the Let's Move West Virginia Active Schools campaign, children are beginning to get the message about good health, but we can and must do better. We have to make sure that we have intentional physical activity like the JAMmin' Minute within the instructional day everyday for every student," she said.

For more information, visit www. Jamworldrecord.org.

Reach Mackenzie Mays at Mackenzie.mays@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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