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Up On Our Feet sm

Moving from a Sedentary to a Physically-Active, Societal Way of Life

UP ON OUR FEET … an ongoing series of interviews, discussions, reports, and other formats on transforming societal life everywhere by individuals and institutions adopting a less-sedentary and more physically-active way of life, especially as this relates to education, health, the environment, and the economy. (click for videos)



Running Program and 23 Consecutive Years of the Highest Academic Test Scores in the School Retired Teacher Pete Saccone, Meridian Elementary School (click for video)

“I just knew that I could use the (outdoor) running in the classroom in mathematics, social studies, you name it. … I was able to integrate it (running) into all areas of the curriculum, and that’s where fitness and academics came in.”

“As the years went on, I was able to say (to the new superintendents and principals), ‘They (my fifth-grade students) will do well academically. I can only tell you that every year I’ve been here (23 consecutive), these kids have had the greatest (highest in the school) test scores. They’re very successful, they don’t get into trouble, they like each other.’”

“It was amazing how their (students with behavioral issues) self-esteem just grew. They became confident. They made more friends because they could do something now that a lot of kids could never do. … They became better academically, and behavior-wise, some of them went from night to day because they said, all of a sudden, ‘I’m good at something.’”

Vanguard Finland: Integrating Physical Activity into Finnish Schools and Academic Classrooms • Professor Arja Sääkslahti, University of Jyväskylä (click for video)

“Physical activity supports motivation, it supports logical thinking. It also supports emotions, how we learn things by using the whole body, and how we learn through sensory stimulation. And physical activity offers and means this all.”

“In Finland, (at the primary level) our lessons are 45 minutes, which means that every hour has a 15-minute break when children go outdoors … After this kind of refreshment, they go back to the classroom and are ready to concentrate for the next lesson. … Classroom teachers are also encouraged to use ‘brain breaks’ after 20 minutes when they have some (physical) activities that help the children concentrate.”

“Genetically, we are built, created that we need to use our body muscles and have heartbeats, and breathe strongly, and use our senses to learn things and do things. So it’s part of our wellbeing. We need this kind of (physical) stimulation to be happy and to learn things.”

“There could be some engineers and IT officers who blame something else, but sorry, it’s not true.”

(What I’ve learned from all my years of work:) “This might sound quite simple, or maybe even too simple, but it’s ‘Go out to play.’ It’s a strong message and it’s possible for everyone, but it’s so important. It’s supporting the total amount of physical activity on a daily basis, it supports your cognitive aspects, it keeps you well, your social wellbeing, healthy body. So it’s simple, but it’s the main thing, an easy thing, and equal for everyone.”

Physical Activity in Finland: Schools and Society, Strengths and Concerns, Today and Tomorrow Professor Timo Jaakkola, University of Jyväskylä (click for video)

“The fact is that it’s (physical activity) also decreasing in Finland. There are more and more youth who are not properly physically active.”

“Fifteen, 20 years ago, we (Finland) were in the top three in all those subjects (international test-score rankings in math, reading, and science), but now we are, I think, between 10 and 20. So we are decreasing every time they conduct the PISA (international test-score rankings) survey. . . . So I guess that one reason in Finland is that our schoolchildren are not physically active; they are too inactive.”

“I think life is too easy nowadays. Parents are driving their kids to school. That was not the case a couple of decades ago. They always went to school by muscle power. And they just have too much competition in their leisure time . . . with screens and different passive habits.”

“Yeah, that’s very sad (that adults have created the very life-styles for children that are at odds with the human genome).”

“In the future, we need to find ways to influence those lowest fitness-level, lowest skill-level kids (to be more physically active). We just need to do that. It’s our obligatory task as adults and academics. So, it will cause a lot of health problems for those kids, and a lot of money lost to society. So it will be a very big problem. We don’t understand it now how big a problem it will be after 10 years, 20 years. So I think the big message can be that we need to really find ways to influence those inactive kids.”

Physical Activity, Cognition, and Academic Achievement Professor Charles Hillman, Northeastern University (click for video)

“The human genome was developed in concert with movement, and is dependent upon movement. And so, from a metabolic perspective, we’re at a mismatch between our human genome and how we live our lives.”

“What we’re looking at here, in my view, is a species, and in this case children of that species, that are not adequately physically active, for the most part. And so, what we’re talking about is maybe less optimal cognitive performance from where we could be. And so, when we introduce physical activity into their world, we’re able to benefit their cognitive functions and, ultimately, their academic performance.”

“Time and again, we’ve shown that a single dose of physical activity benefits math and reading achievement within the hour following the cessation of the dose.”

“Look, I’m not a pedagogist; I’m not an expert in schools and education. But from my perspective, it’s time to update our school curriculum. And in my view, if I were an administrator of a school and genuinely interested in getting the best performance out of my students, there’d be time for physical activity and probably music and the arts every day because I know there’s benefit to music as well on brain and cognition, and what have you.”