State

Stanislaus County schools lead the state in fitness challenge

Agnes Baptist Elementary School students walked their way from Modesto through places like Hawaii, Japan, Indonesia and Africa.

The All-Star Race recorded students' laps around the school track and followed the miles on a map around the world. It only took them three months to log the distance.

That hard work paid off when students were honored with prizes and a $5,000 check Wednesday as one of Stanislaus County's top schools in Fit for the Future, a yearlong campaign to encourage physical activity and nutrition.

Agnes Baptist Elementary combined with 83 other county schools to out-exercise the rest of the state's 57 counties in the annual Governor's Challenge.

"Stanislaus County has really led the state. They have the most student participation and the most active days," said Kenny Rogers, executive director of the California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, which organizes the challenge.

Fit for the Future partnered with the Governor's Challenge in an effort to reduce childhood obesity and increase fitness. Twenty-five percent to 33 percent of Stanislaus County children are overweight, depending on their age group.

From September through this month, students across the county participated in health fairs, grew gardens, ran in jog-a-thons and joined walking clubs to log half an hour of exercise a day. Their activity was logged into the Governor's Challenge online.

Highlights include:

Of the county's 180 public schools, 84 signed up for the Governor's Challenge, with 57 actively participating.

Of the 57 schools, 25 had 50 percent or more of their students complete at least one Governor's Challenge. A challenge is completed by exercising for at least 30 minutes a day three times a week for a 28-day period.

Stanislaus County students have logged more than 1 million active days. Exercising for 30 minutes qualifies as an active day. Physical education class does not count.

The county's active days represent one-third of the Gold Country Region's active days. The region is comprised of 13 counties, including San Joaquin, Sacramento, Tuolumne and Calaveras counties.

In a larger feat, the 1 million-plus active days accounts for 22 percent of the state's active days.

That beats bigger school districts in San Diego, Los Angeles, Oakland and San Francisco, Rogers said.

Habit-forming

The great part about Fit for the Future is that it helped students make exercise a habit, said Agnes Baptist Principal Tom Price.

Fourteen Stanislaus County schools consistently were ranked in the top 20 of the Gold Country Region's Governor's Challenge listing.

Nearly 1,300 teachers, parents and community members signed up for the Governor's Challenge, recording almost 31,000 extra active days, representing 57 percent of Gold Country's bonus active days and one-fifth of the state's.

Three "prize trooper" visits throughout the school year handed out $15,000 in toys and electronics to nine schools, and dozens of campuses were given $24,000 in grants. Businesses donated the prize and grant money, including Kaiser Permanente, Roberts Auto Sales and AT&T.

Education officials will continue the program next school year. They also plan on seeing if Fit for the Future had an impact on state academic and physical fitness test scores when data are released in the fall.

Schools and students also are looking forward to hearing in the fall if they are one of three schools across the state to win a $100,000 gym from the Governor's Challenge.

On the Net:

www.stancoe.org/fitforthefuture;

www.calgovcouncil.org/challenge.

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339.

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