Physical Education Curriculum & Software #QPE

Archive for the ‘health’ Category

Spinal Health & Genetics

Dr. Schuler emphasizes the connection between spinal health and genetics. He outlines four great ways to help promote a healthy spine including, avoidance of nicotine, maintaining appropriate conditioning, using proper ergonomics, as well as maintaining a healthy body weight and nutritional intake.

Video created by the Virginia Spine Institute


Where in the World is Jacob?


By: Ron Malm

I often wonder what has become of Jacob, even though it has been 15 years since he was a student in my physical education class back at Franklin Elementary. It seems odd to me that I would be wondering about Jacob when I taught thousands of students over the course of my career, but I just can’t shake the impact Jacob had on me professionally.

Jacob frustrated me to no end. He was one of the smartest students I ever had the privilege to teach, but Jacob was LAZY! Have you not had a lazy student or two in your career? A typical day teaching Jacob’s class had him entering the gym and choosing to walk during our instant activity, pretend to be doing exercises when we were doing circuits and move at 1/100th the speed of the other students when we were doing a large group activity. I could have understood if the instant activity was lame, the exercises were too technical and the activity was ultra competitive, but not mine! All one had to do is look at all the students laughing, breathing hard and sweating to realize my class was the “place to be”… for most of the students.

In reality, Jacob was far from lazy… he simply saw no relevance in the activities, lessons and units in my PE class to HIS life.  Jacob, like other students in school had already figured out that he was not the fastest, strongest or most coordinated kid on the block and therefore saw no purpose in trying to scale the traverse wall, jump rope or practice his forehand striking with a racquet. Many of the activities I planned for the students did not resonate in Jacob’s life outside of school. Certainly there were other “Jacobs” (Students that had already given up on the physical aspect of life, but faked it and “flew under the radar”).

I think about Jacob often. I think about him because I fear that my blind spots got the better of me more than I care to admit. It was not hard for me to watch students throwing and immediately see the baseball players among them, yet I was blind to the students that saw no purpose in my teaching. I think about Jacob because he pushed me to SEE physical education and physical activity from HIS perspective.

If it doesn’t connect with all the students, then why are we teaching it? I often hear, “because it is good for them”. Sure, it is good for them. It is good for them the same way feeding your own kids vegetables, but if they don’t understand how it relates to them, it is worthless. Everybody deserves the right to be taught the WHY and not just the what, and how.

If you want to find out if your teaching is connecting with your students, I challenge you to give them an anonymous survey asking for their feedback. They will tell you. You may not like what they say, but honest feedback is rarely fun to hear. Although if your goal is to get better, then “SUCK IT UP, BUTTERCUP!” and do what you know you must. Find YOUR Jacob. He exists in all of our classes, you just have to look for him.

If I ever run into Jacob, I will share with him that he pushed me as a physical education teacher more than any other student ever did. He pushed me to see physical education from his perspective and therefore see what at one time was blind to me.

Thank you Jacob!



Tips To Keep Kids Injury-Free & Healthy

ice hockey

By: AJ Lee

Every child activity carries an element of risk, whether it is playing tag at recess or participating in youth sports. Ice hockey may not have the same injury rates as football, where over 1 in 4 kids get hurt playing. However, a sport that involves skating on a sheet of hard, slippery ice with a stick in your hand carries inherent risks that need to be minimized in order to ensure that all kids have a fun and productive season. Parents and coaches need to carefully prepare their players and their team to reduce injury risk.

Establish Histories

By far, the most important task for a coach is to know and prepare for his players’ histories with injury or sickness. Coaches must get information from parents on a child’s history playing ice hockey, with any pre-existing conditions like asthma or diabetes, or any injuries from last season like broken bones. Coaches should never allow players to enter into a physical game when the player has had issues like concussions, migraines or seizures. Finally, both coaches and parents have the responsibility of medical contacts: the coach should have the number of a trained and licensed medical professional available to come to the game at the exact time; while the parents should have the contact information for their family doctor in the event of an emergency.

Prepare Players

Just a few years ago, coaches required players to stretch vigorously before games in order to loosen stiff muscles. More and more scientists, however, have begun to say that this isn’t the best course of action. Reports note that not only do static stretching poses (stretching without movement) weaken the connective power of muscles and lead to tears or pulls, but they fail to add any extra athletic power to a player’s movements. Players can stretch after games in order to develop better flexibility, but time spent stretching should be devoted to warmups that feature active drills and improve muscle memory for game conditions. In case an accident occurs, coaches should keep ice packs available on the bench.


Many injuries come from a lack of water available before, during and after games. While the cold conditions of an ice rink will not exacerbate the loss of water from the body, the pads that protect a player will affect his heat retention and can lead to dehydration. Never try to combat dehydration by loosening pads, as this puts kids at serious risk of harm. Instead, keep a large quantity of water available on the bench and permit kids to drink water any time they require during practices and games. While many players will like to drink Gatorade or other sports drinks, the sugar and salt of these beverages makes a player thirstier in the long run.

Safety Checks
When a coach arrives at the rink, his first priority is to conduct a team gear check. Make certain that all helmets have cages properly fitted with no loose screws or straps that could come off during a game. Check skate blades to see if any are wobbly and need to have their rivets tightened. Check the straps on the goalie’s pads to ensure none are loose or fraying. Finally, the coach should consult with the other coach to get the numbers on players’ heights and weights in order to carefully and fairly match one team member against the other. Players of similar skills should play against one another, but it’s dangerous to have equally skilled players on the ice when one is six inches and 30 pounds larger than the other. Finally, coaches should check the rink: make certain that there are no issues with the ice surface, with the boards, and with the bench area. Immediately contact the rink manager whenever a problem needs fixing.

About the author:

AJ Lee is a Marketing Specialist at Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and hasn’t put it down yet.

The Trap for the Now-Fit Teen


By: Yuliya Davis

This blog post has been a long time coming after my Story of the Un-Fit Kid back in May of 2015. It has taken months to gather up the courage to finally write this “second chapter” and years to overcome (to a large extent, although, never completely) the consequences of the issue I’d like to discuss.

The topic of today’s conversation is eating disorders – specifically, Anorexia Nervosa – which laid a powerful and deadly trap for me during early teen years. Even as I was working on this post, warily and with a good deal of doubt, I came across an article on CNN about an anorexia battle recently fought and won by an amazingly strong and brave teenager – Maris Degener (you can check it out at “Teen overcomes anorexia through yoga”). While this young lady’s triumph over the eating disorder was utterly inspiring, the article also convinced me that it was the right time to publish my post – and start the conversation about what we could do to help kids and teens to avoid this terrible and potentially lethal trap.

Eating disorders are scary – like an ongoing, real-life nightmare that is truly destructive. Even if they don’t kill, they are bound to leave ugly mental, emotional, and physical scars. I became anorexic at 13, and my condition continued to deteriorate until the age of 16, when an extreme change in circumstances and surroundings forcibly kick-started my recovery.  While my personal experience (thankfully!) may not have been as extreme as that of Ms. Degener and many others, I believe that it can offer enough of the back story and insider’s perspective to help us understand how kids become vulnerable and what we can do to help them.

As you may remember from the Story of the Un-Fit Kid, at the age of 12, I acquired some basic fitness knowledge and learned to balance the energy in/energy out equation, which transformed my life. For a time, my new-found healthy weight and active lifestyle brought confidence, success, and plentiful affirmation from peers, dance coaches, and people around me. As any other kid, I thrived on all the positive reinforcement and attention the “new me” and my dance accomplishments were generating. Unfortunately, I started to associate positive changes in my life and success in my dance career directly with my decreased weight. With no solid nutrition knowledge, no healthy eating habits, and no real understanding of what my growing body needed, I lacked the most essential tools that would have allowed me to maintain and further improve my health and fitness. Instead, I focused on doing the only thing I knew how: decreasing the “energy in,” i.e. my food intake, and increasing the “energy out,” i.e. the time, intensity, and frequency of my exercise. Inadvertently, I started spiraling: my hair began to thin rapidly; my energy levels and certain bodily functions declined sharply; my mood became all but intolerable (being perpetually hungry, tired, and cold doesn’t make one into a particularly nice person); and my relationships deteriorated – almost to the point of no return. There was nothing my parents or friends could do to help, because I simply wouldn’t (and couldn’t) listen to them – I was too afraid of turning into that overweight, unfit, and unsuccessful kid again.

You will ask – what is my point in bringing all of this to light? It is simple: to illustrate how easy it can be for children and teens to fall into the trap of eating disorders – and how important it is for us to prevent them from doing so. We have a much better chance of protecting a child’s healthy future if we can stop him or her from falling victim to an eating disorder early on. Once fallen into the trap, full recovery and return to health are never easy or guaranteed. Eating disorders change one’s life forever, and the damage they do to a young person’s body and mind often lasts a lifetime in one form or another.

So how can we protect kids? I truly believe that the first, and most important, step is to provide them with a well-rounded education and a healthy perspective – one that’s based on solid nutrition knowledge and the building of healthy eating habits. And in this, the role of teachers is paramount. As much as parents, friends, and social media affect the kids, nothing can quite compare with the power of a teacher – one, who students look up to; one, who can gently guide, influence, and inspire them. Many times, teachers can be there at exactly the right place and at the right time: they can be the first ones to notice dangerous behaviors and the first ones to intervene – thus changing the ultimate outcomes and the lives of students for the better. This, of course, is never easy: how does one determine whether he/she has the right knowledge, training, and ability to teach kids about things that may be new and uncomfortable, unfamiliar and not a strong suit personally? Many teachers feel this way about nutrition and healthy eating – all in all, they didn’t go to school to become dietitians… However, I believe that we must remember that one of the most important and precious roles that we play throughout our lives is that of a Teacher – delivering knowledge and guidance wherever it is most needed – and learning ourselves along the way. As Arne Duncan put it in his July LinkedIn post Why Teaching is the Most Important Profession, “Teachers are our nation builders—the strength of every profession in our country grows out of the knowledge and skills that teachers help to instill in our children.” Let’s use our power wisely!

Who Cares About Youth Fitness & Health? ME!


By: Jabet Wheeler

In 1995, I got a job with the American Heart Association collecting donations and raising money for research and prevention. I didn’t do it because I believed so much in their mission as because I wanted to “live indoors, eat food, buy clothes”, etc…I needed a job and it was a solid organization with a good reputation. Along the way, during my 13 years in different capacities, I learned about the seriousness of heart disease, met families who were impacted and devastated by heart disease and stroke, and even had it creep into my own immediate family. This deeper understanding layered on the passion for the efforts as the years went by.

I also found that those afflicted with heart disease and stroke tended to stay in the shadows and not be as gregarious or stumping for the cause, as survivors of the other most common chronic diseases. Was it embarrassment because they “caused” their heart disease by not living a healthy lifestyle? Or maybe fear that they would lose their jobs because their disease had rendered them a weaker person? Were they concerned that there would be an increase in their insurance cost? All of these self-doubts were magnified for those who had multiple experiences and helped to keep the seriousness of heart disease and stroke less obvious and downplayed unless you were directly impacted.

For the last five years of my tenure with AHA, I worked in the “Youth Market” Division with my efforts specifically directed at, and for children. This is where it became obvious to me that preventing unhealthy habits in children before they start and teaching children about fitness and healthy lifestyles is a lot more effective approach than working to undo unhealthy habits in the older population (especially because as we grow older the habits, good or bad, become much more ingrained into our lives). That’s how I began “selling” the AHA’s youth programs, (Jump Rope for Heart™, Hoops for Heart™ and HeartWorks™), into school districts and PE Programs. In addition to the fundraising efforts embedded in those programs they also offered an academic component of promoting a life-long love of physical activity.

After the AHA’s Youth Market efforts and my understanding of youth health, it was an easy step to Focused Fitness and representing their programs, products and services to school districts across the U.S. I consider their unique philosophy of integrating fitness, health and nutrition academic concepts into every PE curriculum resource to be right on target…not only keeping student physically active, but also empowering them with the health knowledge they need to make better behavior decisions. This practice of including academic content right in with the lesson’s activities was dubbed “Content Fusion” by one of my customers and I love the phrase!

Some Physical Education Programs are not ready to take that step into Quality PE and have not yet embraced the idea that “Physical Education” is a curricular area and has the special ability not to just keep kids moving and active, but to teach them why it is important. The ideas and habits we instill in our children—especially when they are young—are the ones that will most likely stay with them long into adulthood. I think we need to take every opportunity to make sure we are sharing the “good” habits and explain the consequences so they can make their own knowledgeable choices.

To the Physical Educators who only want their students to play and their modus operandi is to develop the school’s best athletes, I say, “Please, hurry up and retire!” There are thousands of PE Teachers, newly trained in metacognitive academic and physical strategies, waiting to take your place, which would be the very best thing for those other 80% of your students who are sitting on the bench. I get so excited when I work with teachers and administrators who actually “get” the idea of QPE and take their responsibility to educate seriously. I only hope that my grandchildren are lucky enough to be guided by teachers and coaches who are not just worrying about their test scores or their athletic ability, but are teaching the whole child—mind, body and soul.

I am so appreciative of the AHA for giving me the foundation for understanding youth health challenges and best practices, and I am so thankful that I found a company to work for—Focused Fitness—that truly puts all of its efforts into doing what is right, but not always easy, for the benefit of our children’s current and long-term fitness and health.

What is your button?

ron watch

By: Ron Malm

I am losing right now and I do not like it one bit! Many of you know that I cannot stand to lose. I think it is genetic; therefore I feel obligated to blame my mother (JK mom).

Before I tell you what my button is, I need you to think of your button (If you are thinking to yourself, what’s this weirdo talking about, just give me a couple hundred more words).

I believe that everybody is motivated to move. What motivates you? Are you motivated to move because it makes you feel good? Maybe you like the way it makes you look? Do you enjoy being around friends? It is possible that you are motivated to move by all three of those reasons. (Maybe you are motivated by a challenge…understanding my blog post is quite challenging)

I felt that it was my job as a Physical Educator, and now as a Workshop Facilitator to figure out the participants’ button and push it. Why is this so important? Simply put, finding the button allowed me to connect and make the experience meaningful (I applaud you if you are still reading this blog).

It is my opinion that making a connection is what creates the optimal environment for learning. It links the teacher and the learner and produces trust that each is acting in the best interest of each other. This in turn allows the participants to feel safe and if they feel safe they are willing to stretch and grow. Hence, the button has been figured out and pushed (In the event that you are wondering what I am losing at, I am now going to share)!

Recently, my wife and I purchased activity trackers. As soon as we returned home the game was on! Every day the game starts over. Who has the most steps by bedtime? I have gone so far as to go for a run at 9:00pm just so I could beat her, only to find out upon returning that she ran in place the entire time I was gone. Argh! Guess what motivates her?

I will be the first one to tell you that I need to stretch and grow, so I got to go, my activity is low and I don’t want to lose!

The Story of the Un-Fit Kid

unfit kid

By: Yuliya Davis

Do you recall Adam Marshall’s post from April 29, titled “Fitness Knowledge for Everyone”? It brought to light the issue of the nutrition and fitness knowledge disparity that really struck a chord with me. In the story, Adam talked about his lifelong love of sports and movement, his positive experiences as a school athlete, and his work as a personal trainer and fitness professional. With that, Adam also described the struggles that he witnessed: teenagers and young adults (barely out of high school) seeking professional fitness and nutrition help to try to get their health back – with mixed success. Why were they in that situation? What about the Physical Education they should have received as children? And in the back of my mind, as I read Adam’s post, I realized that I could have very easily been one of those people.  So I decided to tell their – and my – side of the story.

The issue of sharp division between the “haves” and “have nots” in the context of nutrition and fitness education is not new. Thankfully, this is not a heavy, in-depth discussion of the existing disparities, but rather a quick tale of how access to knowledge transformed the life of an overweight, uncoordinated, and insecure kid – me. As you read my story, I only ask that you allow yourself to be open and curious – and to ponder the why’s as they present themselves.

I was born and raised in Southeastern Siberia, Russia. That’s right: the scary place we all heard about with bitter cold winters, old prisons, bears, and… a normal Western city, not unlike many here in the United States. I went to a small school, studied all the usual subjects, and hated Physical Education (PE), which in Russian is referred to as Physical Culture (in a literal translation). I was overweight since early childhood and due to family circumstances and other factors outside my control, didn’t get much chance to engage in active play or spend a lot of time using playground equipment outside. Thus, I entered school lacking proficiency in many essential motor skills and fundamental movement patterns. Our bi-weekly PE class very quickly became sheer torture. We ran laps around the old gym – or the track around the school – and then worked on sports skills for Russian favorites such as basketball, volleyball, soccer, and lapta (a version of baseball). Being that I lacked many basic motor skills, I wasn’t successful in trying to figure out how to use an implement or become proficient with a ball. Instead, I watched the kids who were good at sports get better, while those of us who weren’t went largely unnoticed and got poor grades. Luckily, I still liked to move – especially when there was music – and my parents signed me up to attend a dance studio.

I was thrilled, but after the first few lessons, my excitement somewhat faded. It was very difficult – and embarrassing – trying to keep up with my agile peers, who were not overweight. And while I diligently worked on steps and techniques that helped me become more coordinated and comfortable with movement, my weight held me back and kept me from being able to successfully compete. It was at the end of the school year at the age of 12 that I got truly lucky – my aunt gave me a book. It was one of those oddball Reader’s Digest hardcover compilations (Reader’s Digest was just becoming popular in Siberia), and it had a Health and Fitness section. Being that we just got tested, and I, once again, was classified as significantly overweight, it was an auspicious coincidence that the Health and Fitness section caught my eye – and changed my life. Looking back, there wasn’t any extraordinary information in the book – just the basics – but the basics were enough.

I learned about energy in/energy out (it felt like a revelation!), macro and micro nutrients, calories, energy content of some of the common foods, intensity levels, and some of the ways to improve fitness through simple exercises and lifetime or daily activities. Believe it or not, I actually remember most of what I learned that summer, because it was so important and helpful to me, because it made so much sense in my life, and because I wished that I would have known it earlier. Next year, I returned to school and dance a different kid – fit, healthy, confident, and happy. I never became proficient in sports – our PE classes didn’t allow the opportunity to go back and re-build missed skills – but I went on to become a regional dance champion and a successful power lifter.

Fast-forwarding a few years into the future, I ended up moving to the United States, got married, and became a parent. I was able to help my son avoid weight issues, develop good nutritional habits, and share my love of movement and exercise. I now work to further Quality Physical Education (#QPE) alongside an amazing team of dedicated educators at Focused Fitness. We help provide kids with movement opportunities and the access to health, fitness, and nutrition awareness. We help teachers gain the knowledge and skills they need to guide their students toward a healthy, happy, and active life. Why do I do it? To make sure that no kid’s health and happiness has to depend on luck or the chance of stumbling upon the right book at the right time. My 12-year-old self would be very proud – as am I!