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Arnold on fitness for kids.

One of my recent films, Kindergarten Cop, introduced me in vivid terms to the excitement and joy that exercise can provide for even the youngest children.

The movie was about a policeman who had to go undercover as a kindergarten teacher. In one of the scenes, the children in the movie do some exercises--and they really got into the program! The more activity we requested, the more fun they had as they yelled, ran, jumped, and, in general, enjoyed themselves. As a result, we actually added more exercise sequences than we had originally planned.

This experience impressed me in several ways. First, it's clear that most children are naturally drawn to vigorous physical activity. Also, the more exercise children do, the more they want to do it. In other words, if given the opportunity and guidance, they easily acquire the exercise habit.

Physical fitness experts such as Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, author of Kid Fitness, emphasize that habits and lessons learned early are more likely to stay with us throughout life. The main idea is to help children get started on a fitness program and then to support them as they find the particular activities or sports that seem most interesting.

As the chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, I believe that one of the major goals of any sound physical fitness program should be to benefit as many children as possible. The best approach will focus on promoting challenging but achievable levels of health and well-being for the nonathlete as well as for the child who will go on to play competitive sports. Again, I support one of Dr. Cooper's key themes, that kid fitness must be available for every child at every developmental level.

In this vein, it bothers me that there is only one state, Illinois, that requires daily physical education for all youngsters, from kindergarten through grade 12. When I was growing up in Austria, everyone who went to school had to do one hour a day of exercise. Also, we had sports programs three times a week for those who wanted to engage in athletic competition. I long for the day when this approach to fitness will be commonplace in the United States. To make this vision of kid fitness a reality, several prerequisites are necessary:

All of us should learn to distinguish between sports programs and physical education programs. As Dr. Cooper says, achieving good health and reaching a high level of conditioning for sports are not the same thing. So we must be sure to devote as much thought, energy, and money to promoting basic fitness as we do to athletic prowess.

Our school systems and community programs must expand and improve their fitness efforts with an eye toward drawing in all children, not just the elite few. We need to focus on improving the average youngster, not just on helping the one who can lift 500 pounds, or run 100 meters in 9.9 seconds, or play varsity basketball.

Parents must make fitness a family affair. How can Mom and Dad help? They can participate in exercise activities with their children. They can turn off the TV and encourage all family members to get out into the yard or on the street for a brisk walk.

We have a saying at the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports: "It's just as important to grow up fit as it is to grow up smart." That's the basic principle for transforming the health and well-being of our children. All that remains is for parents, teachers, coaches, and children to commit themselves to a workable program that prescribes sound exercises, good nutrition, and other fitness guidelines that can make the principle a reality.
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Title Annotation:Arnold Schwarzenegger
Author:Schwarzenegger, Arnold
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jan 1, 1992
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