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Old-Fashioned Sweat And High Technology Combine To Help Teens Get Physically Fit

National School Fitness Foundation, IBM And Stayhealthy Inc. Want Kids -- And Maybe Mom And Dad -- To Learn To Love Exercise

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT - 06 Dec 2001: The National School Fitness Foundation (NSFF), IBM and Stayhealthy Inc. are combining old-fashioned sweat and the latest in computerized technology to fight what the Centers for Disease Control says is "an epidemic of obesity among today's youth."

The effort comes none too soon as the average American is expected to gain another five pounds from end-of-the-year feasting in what is called the "Holiday Season of Overeating."

The weapon of choice to help teens get physically fit is a vigorous exercise program using new equipment donated by NSFF to high schools in participating school districts. IBM, which is the systems integrator for the project, has designed a computerized kiosk each teen will use that includes Stayhealthy health monitoring devices and software programs to measure progress.

At the NSFF/IBM kiosk each student places both palms on a Stayhealthy device where a tiny electric current and bio-impedence technology is used to determine each student's percent of body fat and ratio of lean muscle, along with height, weight, hydration level and other measurements.

Plans call for the kiosks to be Web-enabled and be able to recognize individual students and create a customize exercise programs according to that person's fitness level. The kiosks will compile group statistics to give a more accurate picture about the school's student population as a whole and help healthcare professionals get a better nationwide understanding whether American teens are winning or losing the fitness battle.

Once installed, many of the K-12 districts are expected to have the fitness centers open after school or on weekends so mom and dad and other community residents can use the equipment.

NSFF says that if students can see they are making some progress -- no matter how small -- that will act as positive feedback and reinforcement to keep going in the never-ending effort to get and stay physically fit.

Cameron Lewis, president of the public, not-for-profit NSFF, said the goal of his organization is to place fitness centers -- complete with the highest quality exercise equipment and computerized assessment kiosks -- in school districts across the US at no cost to the district. "The secret is to keep the kids motivated so they learn to enjoy and keep doing the exercises," he said. NSFF funding is from government and private organizations.

NSFF says its program is important, because many of the nation's 16,000 K-12 public school districts have little or no exercise equipment and have minimal physical education requirements for graduation.

Some fifty schools are already involved with the comprehensive NSFF fitness center program. The first kiosk installations are scheduled for January, starting with regular assessment of about 10,000 students in a dozen schools, including those in Utah, Texas, Iowa and Ohio. Plans call for another 150 districts involving 150,000 additional students to be participating within the next year -- mainly high school and middle school students.

Public health officials have noted with alarm the growing problem of obesity in youth and an overall lack of fitness. They also note the difficulty in motivating young people who like to spend idle hours in front of a television or video screen instead of doing some form of exercise.

"Exercise can be enjoyable and rewarding," adds Lewis. "The outcomes we are seeing in the early stages of our program are amazing with the kids feeling better, looking better and certainly having more energy. We're not just trying to get kids to lose weight. We want them to become physically fit and stay that way."

Lehi High School in Utah was one of the early trial users of the NSFF program and Lou Andrus, coach and physical education director, credits it with improving not just the physical fitness of the student body, but their mental attitude and outlook as well. He does not think it is coincidence that this year Lehi had its first winning football season in 30 years. "The students will be even more motivated once we add the IBM kiosk with Stayhealthy technology," he predicts.

Douglas Williams Jr., vice president of Business Innovation Services for IBM Global Services-Healthcare, said the collaboration with NSFF and Stayhealthy is part of a much larger effort by IBM to use e-business to enhance the U.S. healthcare industry. "In addition to helping our youth lead far healthier lives, information technology can help the entire U.S. Healthcare industry improve quality and efficiency."

Stayhealthy CEO, John Collins, adds: "We haven't turned the corner in the battle to get Americans to lead healthier lives, but this is a big step in the right direction. The NSFF program is about helping kids become more physically fit and changing their attitudes about the need to exercise and lead active lives. Our technology can help motivate them to do that."

National School Fitness Foundation Background
In March 2000, the National School Fitness Foundation was founded to increase and improve the overall level of health, wellness and fitness in the nation, particularly among school children. and reduce disease, of the general public of the United States, using preventative measures. NSFF is a public, not-for-profit organization headquartered in American Fork, Utah. NSFF donates fully equipped fitness centers to schools nationwide at no cost. The fitness center is comprised of fitness equipment, assessment equipment, a fitness curriculum, and certification and training for the on-site administrator and staff. The foundation is organized to leverage federal dollars as well as private sponsorships to help fund this initiative.

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