Originally published March 8, 2022 by Mid-Michigan Now.

By Chloe Godbold

Health leaders in Genesee County are pushing for more physical activity not only is schools, but also at home.

The Greater Flint Health Coalition started the Commit2FIT Challenge in 2016, and today, it's still positively impacting schools.

At Atherton Elementary in Burton, students took a break from school work, replacing it with physical activity.

Nichole Smith-Anderson is the Special Projects Director of Greater Flint Health Coalition. She played a big role in establishing the Commit2FIT Challenge, and says many schools have taken part in the program.

"We wanted to create a challenge, essentially to encourage children to be physically active on a regular basis. Usually, we have at least 35 schools participate. That's across 17 school districts, so within Genesee County, there's about 21 school districts," Anderson says.

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Atherton Elementary is one of those schools who continue to take part in the challenge. They won the first annual Commit2FIT Challenge in 2016.

Tim Hanifan, P.E. teacher and Athletic Director at the school says, this program is needed in schools because it sets an example for kids when they go home.

Hanifan says, "sometimes we only get one P.E. class a week, so it encourages them to do things outside of school.

Staff at the elementary school tell me programs like this one help students stay focused in the classroom.

"It helps one with their focus, it gets them up and moving and awake. It also helps with discipline issues too, get the wiggles out then they can behave more in class," Hanifan says.

In this challenge, schools have to commit to at least 30 minutes of physical activity a day, making sure they log it as they go.

There are also prizes involved if your school has the most logged minutes.

Anderson says, "we're hoping to be able to give at least $1,000 per division. We usually do elementary, middle, and high school combined."

Hanifin has been a P.E. teacher at Atherton Elementary since 1995. He made sure the prize money was used to enhance the schools access to physical education. Yet, other schools have used it in other ways as well.

"We got more equipment for our recess activities," Hanifan says.

Anderson says, "we've seen one school purchase a vitamixer, so they could do smoothies every week."

The Director of Commit2FIT Challenge says she hopes this program will be around for a long time.

"We're hoping that we can have every school district participating, because we do want kids to be healthy and physically active."

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