Encouraging kids to stay active


Rashard Mendenhall remembers what it was like when he was in grade school and gym class was a staple of the school day.

"Gym was something we looked forward to in school, especially as a boy," said Mendenhall. "I loved sports, gym, and recess. Any time I was able to run around was great."

 It bothers Mendenhall that gym class and physical activity is being replaced with today's technology. He took that message to Capitol Hill in the spring, talking to a congressional hearing about the NFL's Play60 campaign and the fight against childhood obesity.

This week he continued with his messaging, taking part in Keep Gym in School, the NFL Network's comprehensive national program to boost fitness and physical education in America's middle schools. 

"I think kids are get away from being active," said Mendenhall. "With the movement with technology and television it makes it a lot easier for them not to be active. They are getting away from that, doing away with activity completely."

Mendenhall, Antwaan Randle El and Steelers Hall of Famer and NFL Network analyst Rod Woodson went to Arsenal Middle School in the Pittsburgh Public School system to inaugurate their refurbished physical education facility, funded by grant from the Keep Gym in School program.


"There is so much going on in the world with obesity," said Randle El. "It's not like it was when we were growing up. We had gym every day. Kids don't have that same setup. It's not structured the way I think it should be for a kid to have the exercise he needs when going to school.

"School should be about education, health and everything. The kids aren't getting that gym and exercise we were getting as kids."

Randle El, who is a father of five, stresses being active with his kids and hopes others get the message of being active 60 minutes a day to stay healthy.

"At my house you are going to exercise," said Randle El. "I make sure my kids they get their exercise in every day. They get to the point where they want to do it. If they don't do it they come to me saying dad, I don't feel right. Afterwards they feel better. That's why I like to encourage them to do it."

Students in grades sixth-through-eighth at Arsenal took part in the Keep Gym in School/Play60 Challenge a program that measure students' fitness levels and encourages them to stay active throughout the year. 

"We are so grateful to NFL Network and the Pittsburgh Steelers for this gracious gift that will provide an opportunity to enhance our physical education program and allow students to utilize professional fitness equipment," said Debra Rucki, the Principal at Arsenal. "With this gift our students are now able to take responsibility for their health as they begin to track their progress towards improving their cardiovascular and physical strength."

The players took part in the activities and encouraged the kids throughout the event, making sure they stay motivated.

"Not being involved in some activity at school, or where school is not presenting options, leads kids away from sporting activities," said Randle El. "I encourage parents and kids to get involved with sports. The exercise it comes with is great."

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