Category Archives for Fitness

Exercise Can Save the Future Generations

The Missing Link: How Exercise & Healthy Living Can Save the Future Generations

In bygone days, neighborhood children ran and played outdoors from dawn ‘til dusk, biking through the dirt and capering in the woods. Moms and dads whistled loudly when it was time to come inside and eat dinner, and then the children all scattered home. But that is not the norm today.

More awareness for lurking danger keeps children closer to home with a play radius not much further than the front yard, and the advent of the internet connects children to friends from a computer screen and chair so they no longer galivant together through hidden paths in the woods. Today, children run less and have more sedentary play and organized socializing through contained play dates at friends’ houses in a playroom.

The change from the wild abandon of yore to the more confined and structured play of today is almost visceral. You can feel the social constraints that limit children’s activity as well as the restless energy stored within them, untapped and waiting to burst. In the absence of natural play that wiles away the day with large expenditures of energy, we must create the opportunity for children to let loose and play with gusto.

Creating Active Play

Children of all ages have an amazing capacity for spending energy, and their musculoskeletal systems are developmentally craving movement and full-body engagement. There just isn’t always enough opportunity for them to move in today’s daily routine, so we must be conscious of creating opportunities for them to get the physical activity their bodies require.

Gym classes, after school activity groups, and playdates that include movement are ways to incorporate active play into a child’s day. Ideally, one or more of these occurring daily would be best so that children have ample time to unleash their stores of energy. It’s vital to set aside dedicated time for activity so that children can fully develop their bodies and become healthy. Adults may need to make a little more effort to provide these opportunities, but it’s so worthwhile. The result of more active children is better not just for their health, but for the future.

Long Lasting Benefits To Active Play

Long Lasting Benefits To Active Play

Without activity, our bodies experience atrophy. Atrophy is a condition of the muscles, joints, and bones that renders them weak and incapable of doing their primary job to support the body in all its functions. Atrophy occurs over prolonged periods of inactivity during which the body is at rest for too long. While it’s not life threatening, atrophy contributes to other illnesses or diseases that certainly do harm or limit lifespans.

Atrophy is the result of a body that has not been allowed to perform in full; the human body is designed to work. The body is a system and a machine that regenerates and produces energy as needed; the body is meant to function. Muscle tissue benefits from use and building up strength, and without movement, those muscles will atrophy. Like any system, weaken one point and the rest will follow suit until the whole system collapses.

Luckily, the opposite is true:  continued use will allow the body to grow stronger and prevent atrophy, feeding the system so that it builds itself up. An active body is a healthy body, staving off the harmful consequences of inactivity, like atrophy. It’s vital to stay active.

Children who engage in active play times will continue to build their system and grow stronger. The obstacles to unabandoned outdoor play time and the sedentary lifestyles we have grown accustomed to in society today foster an environment rife with atrophy, so we need to counteract the effects of this by including active times within our lifestyles.

Lasting Changes

The expression, “Knowledge is Power,” strikes at the heart of the problems facing today’s youngest generation:  knowing that we need to stay active to be healthy is the first step to seeking those opportunities. Understanding the harm and causes of atrophy allows us to push against the forces that create the condition so that we can avoid it.

Technology and screen time are conducive to creating atrophy of the human body, so creating movement and activity away from those factors is the start. Children who learn to balance their screen time with active pursuits will develop healthy habits to last a lifetime.

Many times, safety concerns push parents to provide indoor screen time so that children can play in a non-threatening environment. By offering a safe space to be active, parents can now give their children this advantage.

The Healthy Living Chain Reaction 

Giving children the advantage of opportunities to be physically active starts a chain reaction that leads to healthy living as follows: exposing children to regular physical activity establishes a habit; children learn to seek and engage with physical activities; this early exposure and habit lead to skill development, and skills give children knowledge and the ability to pursue even more activity as they grow up.

Once the habit and skills become ingrained, today’s generation of children will be healthier adults tomorrow. The desire for more movement will lead to more individuals seeking activity which in turn influences society. If there is demand, there will be supply, and economic principles will drive society to meet the need.

As society continues to develop more technology to replace the need for humans to act, it will be ever more important for society to have an innate desire to be physically active. Understanding the connection between a healthy body and lifestyle and teaching skills to engage in physical activity will stave off the effects of atrophy and the encroachment of an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

As the first link in the chain reaction, childhood physical activity initiates the healthy beliefs and actions that will define the future. Starting now, we can create a healthier future for the next generations by promoting and providing access to exercise.

5 Reasons Why Skillastics® Will Make Your Program Great


Can you imagine your job getting easier, and more productive?  What if you could maximize participation without wasting the limited time you have?  Wouldn’t it be great to have a resource at your disposal guaranteeing a glowing administrative review?

With Skillastics® you can.

The Skillastics® Activity Kit System is a powerful resource that will transform your program. Not Convinced? Following are 5 key reasons why Skillastics® will undeniably make your program great.

1) Increase Academic Learning
A requirement you are constantly hearing from your administration. Skillastics® bridges the gap between physical activity and academics by seamlessly incorporating vocabulary, literacy, math and STEM learning. Skillastics® is an innovative way of including more academic integration.

2) Connecting with Classroom Teachers
What makes Skillastics® stand out beyond any other physical activity resource is its ability to connect directly with classroom teachers through the Skillastics® Custom Question Card Templates for nutrition, STEM and math. Simply share these templates with classroom teachers and ask them to create questions that are relevant to the lessons that they are currently teaching. You would then take these questions and add them to your program while your students are playing Skillastics®. Instant connection!

3) Organized Chaos
The best large group resource available! You will not find a better large group resource out there. Period. Any instructor that is using Skillastics® properly will tell you that the Skillastics® Activity Kit System exceeds their expectations and reinforces all the reasons why they decided to add Skillastics® to their program.

4) Steller Assessment
It is crucial to assess students to make sure they are really learning. If you, your students, parents, and administration truly want to see fitness progression in your class, the Skillastics® Activity Kit System is the most effective resource to measure movement in a variety of ways.

Fully Engaged
Students are full engaged, which frees you up to conduct formative assessment,    measuring all students progress and mastery of skill without interruption.

Effective Feedback
With students fully engaged, Skillastics® provides a more relaxed atmosphere for feedback and individual instruction when needed.

Summative Assessment with Technology
Skillastics® is the most effective resource to measure student outcomes using heart rate monitors or other technology based devices.

5) The Skillastics® Activity Kit System Saves Time
Do you see your student’s once a week? Twice a week if you’re lucky? How many times do you see a new lesson activity that looks like fun, but takes much too long to set up? The innovative Skillastics® technique takes less than a minute to set up and allows for maximum participation while increasing fitness levels.

Introducing the Skillastics® Activity Kit System into your program will exceed your expectations and fulfill all your objectives. Visit or email us at to transform your program today.

Developing Volleyball Competency & MVPA

A quality physical education program has curriculum, units, and lessons that are standards based.  One of the important standards for a physical educator is Standard 1 which states that a physically literate person demonstrates competency in a variety of motor skills and movement patterns (SHAPE  America; National Standards & Grade Level Outcomes).  This standard allows physical educators to prepare students to participate in many different physical activities and sports with confidence, which will lead to a life full of activity.

I have taught physical education for 23 years, and every year I always ask my students why they may not like certain sports and physical activities that we do.  Each year, I get the same response:  “I don’t like the activity because I’m not very good at it.”  I then ask them how they could get better at it.  Well, we all know that if they got better at the skills, it would make the game play better, and then more fun will be had when they play the activity/sport.

Along with Standard 1, moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) has become a major focus in our lessons.  However, with this focus on MVPA, some have dropped focusing on Standard 1 because focusing on skills may not get their students’ heart rate up into the appropriate range.  But, this does not have to be the case.  Skills can still be taught effectively while focusing on MVPA as well.

As I have traveled across the country doing presentations at various state and national conferences, my platform and focus has been on infusing fitness into daily lessons.  One of the sports I present on is volleyball, and the teaching of the forearm and overhead pass.  One way I used to teach these skills was with the command style, and they were pretty stationary.  As I went back and looked at my lessons and started asking myself about whether or not they were getting to the appropriate MVPA, I noticed that I needed to change the way I had the students work on their skills.  We all know that if they lack the skills, the game of volleyball is a serve, it hits the ground, and the team scores a point; not much fun for anyone.  So, with a little thinking and creativity, I have been able to increase MVPA and skill development.

Within my research of trying to find ways to increase skills and MVPA, I came across the Skillastics® program.  The first one I used, was the basketball program.  Then, the volleyball kit came out, and I knew I had to have it.  Skillastics® fits with everything I believe in and want to accomplish in my class.  The one nice thing about it, I didn’t have to come up with the fitness activities and there would be a lot of variation in my lessons.  Throughout my volleyball unit, I use the task cards to help with the skill development.  It allows the students to work independently, but yet stay focused on the skills but yet get in a good workout.  Once they have learned the tasks from the kit, we use the entire kit to play Volleyball Skillastics®.  While they are doing this, I know they are working on the skills, increasing MVPA, and having fun.

Skill development is crucial in giving the students confidence they can participate competently in the sport or activity.  However, just because you work on skills, doesn’t mean that MVPA must be lost.  All you need to do is think, be creative, or use a program that already focuses on both.

CLICK HERE To Learn More About Volleyball Skillastics®!

Moving with the Alphabet

Moving with the Alphabet”

 Equipment Needed:

·         Laminate the alphabet on 26 pieces of paper (one letter on one paper)

·         26 Skillastics® Task Cards (Any Skillastics® Activity Task Cards will work – Fitness, Fitness Xtreme, Let’s Move in School, Character is Cool, Basketball, Soccer, Tennis and Volleyball)

 Set Up:

·         Scatter all 26 laminated letter cards throughout the playing area. 

·         Lay a Skillastics® Task card next to each of the 26 laminated letter cards.

·         Designate an area in the corner of the playing area for children to go to after they have completed the “Moving with the Alphabet” assignment.  (Teaching Tip:  This area could include additional Skillastics® task cards, balls, beanbags, scarves, anything that will keep the children active).


Start Play:

·         On a signal or music, children scatter around the playing area, going to the first letter that spells their name.

·         When they find the letter, they look at the Skillastics® activity associated with that letter.

·         The child does the activity the number of repetitions that were determined prior to play.

·         When the child completes the repetitions, they search for the next letter in their name and repeat the process.

·         When a child finishes spelling his/her name, they jog to the designated playing area in the corner and do an assigned activity in that area until everyone in the class has completed spelling their name.


·         Appoint teams

o   Each team is told to spell a word (each team has a different word, but has the same amount of letters in the words.  For example, dog and cat). 

o   The first team to spell the word first and jog to the designated area, wins.

·         Partner Up

o   Partners work together on rotating to each of the cards and doing the activity. 

o   The partners pull a word out of a bucket and begin spelling.

o   When the word is spelled, they go back to the bucket and spell another word.

·         Sport Specific

o   Lay equipment next to each card.  For example, if you want the children to work on their basketball skills, lay a basketball or a ball that bounces next to each letter card and Basketball Skillastics® Task Card.  Teaching Tip:  Place the Basketball in a ring or in a bucket.  This will reduce the frustration of the ball rolling away.  Or, you can line the cards along a wall, and lay the ball against a wall.

Let’s Move in School – An Initiative for ALL of us!

I’m sure most all of you are aware of the “Let’s Move in School” initiative that was started by NASPE and AAHPERD.  If you haven’t signed up to be a part of this great project, I encourage you to do so by going to  There are numerous resources that you can access on the AAHPERD web site to help get you started with implementing a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program in your school. 

If you look at the CSPAP logo, you will notice that the star at the top is “Physical Education”.  The reason for that is two-fold.  First, a quality physical education program is the cornerstone to a successful Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program.  Physical education is not the same as physical activity and this initiative is not intended to take the place of a quality physical education program taught by a certified teacher.  Second, you as the physical education instructor are the person most qualified to lead this initiative!  Please keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ask other people to help!  Quite the opposite!  The more people you have “on board” and helping, the more successful the program will be.  With that in mind, over the next few months, I’ll discuss the other components of CSPAP and give you some ideas for how to get other people involved, and provide some activities to consider implementing in each area. 

I’ll start “Staff Involvement” this month.  The LMIS web site states:  “High-level support from school administrators is critical to a successful comprehensive school physical activity programs. Staff involvement in school-based physical activity provides two key benefits:

  • School employee wellness programs have been shown to improve staff health, increase physical activity levels, and be cost effective.
  • When school staff are personally committed to good health practices, they are positive role models for students and may show increased support for student participation in physical activity.”

With that in mind, and with the holiday season here, it’s a perfect time to invite your staff to participate in some type of “healthy challenge”.  These could be started now or after the first of the year.  If you are waiting until January, send out some “teasers” to get people excited about participating!  You might consider implementing one of these ideas:

  • “Exercise = Less Stress” (provide a chart for people to record how many minutes of physical activity they get each day during the month)
  • “Maintain, No Gain Challenge” (provide ideas for healthy eating tips during the month and a weekly “weigh in” sheet)
  • “Healthy Treats for Happy Feet” (encourage people to walk during their lunch hour and bring healthy foods for their lunch)
  • “Biggest Loser Challenge” (make this fun and non-threatening to get more involvement!)

Keep in mind that healthy staff members will serve as good role models to your students so don’t keep their successes a secret—share what you are doing with your students!  It will let them see that the adults in their school (not just you as the physical education teacher) care about their health and wellness and understand the benefits of being physically active and eating right!

Including Current Events in Your Teaching Practices

 One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than a hundred teaching it.”  Knute Rockne 
When I read that quote, I have mixed feelings because I believe that we have a responsibility to teach our students the importance of
good sportsmanship.  However, if we don’t model it, and practice it so students see what it looks like, then our teaching
is in vain.  In addition to our own actions, we also have a multitude of current examples of actions on and off the
field to help in our efforts to teach the value of teamwork and sportsmanship.  Here are two examples to
get you started thinking about how easy it is to include current events in your teaching practices. 
 A local middle school has a student who because of medical issues can’t play football.  He
desperately wanted to be on the team so the coach allowed him to come to practice and suit up for every game
even though he couldn’t actually play.  Recently, the coach talked to his team and
the opposing coach and this young man was allowed to enter the game.  And….I’m sure you see where this is going!  Even though it looked like he was
trying to be tackled, he wasn’t touched and ran down the field for a touchdown, and successfully ran for the two point conversion.  Everyone on both teams had a part in showing
what sportsmanship looks like on the field.   When interviewed, the coach said, sometimes there are more important
things in life than winning a game.  Through his teaching, two opposing teams practiced sportsmanship that day. 

Now, an example of how poor sportsmanship might be used as a teaching tool!  I am a Kansas City
Chiefs fan and season ticket holder (yes it’s been rough year!!).  A few weeks ago the starting quarterback was
hit and ultimately left the game with a concussion.  The fans were “ripped” by one of the Chiefs players
for cheering when it happened.  I was there and can tell you not everyone cheered as was originally reported, and some were
cheering for the fact that the back-up QB was coming into the game.  However, even one person cheering when a
player is injured in my mind is inappropriate.  One of the ESPN commentators later in the week said his concern was the
message it was giving to the “young fans”.  I totally agree!  And, unfortunately, that type of behavior is becoming more and more common at all
sporting events.  The fans actions, and the way a player stood up for his teammate provided an opportunity to talk
about sportsmanship and teamwork.  Events like can be used as well as those “feel good” stories as teachable moments with
our students. 

Check out the Character is Cool Skillastics®  kit for a great resource for teaching several character traits with a variety of fun and
challenging activities!  And, so you know, for the rest of the football season I’ll continue to wear purple on Saturday
and red on Sunday!  Go Kansas State Wildcats and Kansas City Chiefs!! 





Obesity Rate in America Keeps Rising With No End in Sight

Obesity remains on the rise everywhere in America, and especially in the southern parts of the country. Two thirds of our population is now overweight to some degree and one third is considered obese.

According to a recently released report by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on a continued state-by-state survey, titled “Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System,” obesity rates have nearly doubled since these studies were initially conducted some 16 years ago.

Obesity is measured by the body mass index (BMI). A person with a BMI of 30 or higher is diagnosed as obese. Someone who is a 5’8″ tall and weighs 200 pounds, for example, has a BMI of 30.4. The definition can vary for athletes, pregnant women and also for children, depending on their age and gender.

Although obesity rates are up in every part of the population, there are observable racial differences, with more African Americans, Native Americans and Hispanics being affected than Caucasians. Age also seems to matter. Americans tend to become heavier after the age of 50.

More significant, however, are geographical differences. The states with the highest percentage of obese residents, 30% and over, are almost all in the south. Researchers say that culture and lifestyle may play a role, but also education, income and availability of food resources. Some point to the so-called “grocery gap,” that is the lack of availability and affordability of nutritious foods, like fresh produce, in low-income urban neighborhoods and poor rural areas.

Another massive obstacle is health education, or rather the lack thereof. Large parts of the population are simply ignorant or confused about the basic facts of healthful nutrition. Let’s face it; we have a persistent health illiteracy in this country.

If we are to expect people to improve their eating- and lifestyle habits, we must come up with better, more user-friendly ways to educate them. Many health books are too academic. Diet programs are expensive and promise more than they deliver. Nutrition and ingredients labels are difficult to decipher (perhaps on purpose) and don’t help to make better choices.

It is also futile to call for more physical exercise when neighborhoods are unsafe and parks are closed because of budget cuts. Schools are regularly forced to eliminate physical education (PE) from their curriculum, and poor communities can’t afford public pools and sport facilities.

Government-sponsored initiatives and national campaigns – like Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” program to reduce childhood obesity – could be a good start. But they are insufficiently funded and rarely reach those who need them the most.

What we really need is a mandatory national health literacy program in all public schools, to be taught across all grade levels. The “Edible School Yard” project of Alice Waters in Oakland, California could serve as an initial model. The kids who participate in this program not only learn how to grow foods and vegetables – even in the midst of an urban environment – and how to prepare wholesome meals from scratch, they also discover and appreciate the benefits of healthy living from early on, which will hopefully serve them well for the rest of their lives.

Timi Gustafson R.D. is a clinical dietitian and author of “The Healthy Diner – How to Eat Right and Still Have Fun™,” is available on her blog and at Amazon. Her latest book, “Kids Love Healthy Foods™” is now available in e-book format at

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