Originally published July 6 by University of Michigan News.

By Laura Bailey

It’s estimated that only 23% of U.S. kids get the recommended hour of daily physical activity, and that number has likely fallen since COVID-19 closed schools.

InPACT at Home, a fitness program developed by University of Michigan with state and national partners, hopes to offset COVID’s impact on Michigan’s 1.5 million school kids by offering free, online workouts developed by the physical education teachers, and recorded in their homes.

InPACT stands for Interrupting Prolonged Sitting with Activity.

Rebecca Hasson, associate professor of kinesiology and director of the Childhood Disparities Research Laboratory, says most children get the majority of physical activity from physical education classes, after-school sports, and recess.

While the InPACT at Home videos can’t replace physical education—which is an entire curriculum devoted to movement and motor skills—they do address the activity component kids are missing in the absence of gym class.

They’ll launch July 6 with an initial offering of three-minute videos produced by Hasson’s lab, showing U-M students demonstrating various no-equipment physical activities. Throughout July, the videos will get longer (7 to 10 minutes) and more varied. These routines are designed to acclimate kids to at-home fitness—an activity normally reserved for adults.

“Kids aren’t used to exercising at home. They’ll have to think about how to rearrange the furniture, do they have the right clothes, do they have enough room, etc.,” Hasson said.

Starting Aug. 1, InPACT at Home will debut the workouts that comprise the heart of the program—20-minute cardio routines developed and recorded at home by Michigan physical education teachers.

They hope to develop 250 cardio training routines—tabata, yoga, circuit, bootcamp, etc.—with five workouts for students to choose from each day. Videos will also include nutrition messaging and social emotional learning activities, all accessible on smartphones, tablets, and computers.

The idea for the program originated in May, when Pamela Pugh, vice president of the Michigan State Board of Education, contacted Hasson about kids and physical activity during COVID. Hasson shared her InPACT at School research, a project to incorporate short activity breaks throughout the day, which Hasson’s research has found helps kids learn and promotes health.

Michigan has one of the country’s highest childhood obesity rates, and COVID has exacerbated this problem, Pugh said.

“My God daughter, who will be a ninth grader in the fall, played basketball for her school team, had one hour of PE per day for one marking period, and played AAU in the summer. Since COVID-19, she and her friends mostly sleep during the day and stay up at night playing video games together virtually.

“Her mom sporadically takes her to a local basketball court and allows her to play on it only when there are no other children there. It is critical that we have novel partnerships that create innovative alternatives or new normals for our children, to increase their daily physical activity. InPACT addresses both.”

InPACT at Home evolved over the next six weeks, and draws heavily on inPACT at School.

“We hope that students will continue with InPACT at Home even after schools reopen, so they’ll get 20 minutes of activity in the class, 20 minutes at home and 20 minutes during recess or in physical education class, to total one hour a day, five days a week,” Hasson said.

Parents and students can do InPACT at Home together, or kids can use it alone, Hasson said. The longer workouts can be broken up throughout the day or done in one sweat session.

Partners include the Michigan School Health Coordinators’ Association, Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE Michigan), Michigan Public Health Institute, Michigan Elementary and Middle School Principals Association, Playworks, former Detroit Piston Earl Cureton and former Flint mayor Karen Weaver.

All programming is available at Active Schools & Communities Core Unit on U-M’s Exercise & Sport Science Initiative website. Teacher training videos for teachers interested in producing physical activity videos are located here, as well as fitness logs and information for parents.

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