Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger wants California's students to run, jump and squat their way to a new gymnasium for their schools.
As part of his effort to boost students' physical fitness, the governor on Wednesday announced a fitness challenge. The Austrian-born governor and former Mr. Universe wants to get 20,000 kindergarten through 12th-grade students active for 30 to 60 minutes a day at least three times a week.
As an incentive, the school with the highest percentage of participating students at the end of the four-week challenge will win a new fitness center. The next 11 will win $1,000 (Ђ770) to buy fitness equipment.
A statewide review of physical fitness released in November found that nearly half of California's ninth-grade students do not have the stamina to briskly run one mile (1 1/2 kilometers). Fewer than a third of the nearly 1.4 million students who took the test in fifth, seventh and ninth grades met all the minimum benchmarks in areas such as percentage of body fat, abdominal strength and flexibility.
State law requires that elementary students receive 200 minutes of physical education every 10 school days and double that many for grades 7-12, but the state conducts few compliance checks.
Schwarzenegger has promoted increased physical activity for students since he was a member of former President George H.W. Bush's Council on Physical Fitness.
The governor said working out three times a week for a month is just a start. They should aim to be active every day, he told students at Will C. Wood Middle School in Sacramento.
"It's not just to have a muscular body and to look studly when you go out there," he said. "It has also to do with your health, because so many people get sick as they get older sick because they have a terrible lifestyle."
Two bills aimed at improving school nutrition will take effect this July. One will require foods sold in school vending machines to meet high nutritional standards and regulate the number of calories from fat and sugar. The other limits drinks sold at schools to water, milk and some fruit and sport drinks that have limited sweeteners, reports AP.
Schwarzenegger launched the student fitness challenge Wednesday at a Sacramento middle school.
Teachers and schools can register for the program online, where they also can keep track of their progress against other schools.
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