Originally published Sept. 7, 2017 by Fox 5 Atlanta.

By: Portia Bruner

 – At Rivers Elementary School in northwest Atlanta, physical education is much more than a class. It’s a lifestyle that PE teachers Julie Chartier and Lisa Thibou reinforce every moment their students spend in the gym.

“It’s kind of like the mindset. Like, this is what you are, this is not something just for PE. This is how you’re supposed to take care of yourself throughout life,” veteran APS PE instructor Lisa Thibou told FOX 5’s Portia Bruner.

While the classes are physically rigorous, often looking and sounding like an adult boot camp, the students told Bruner they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It makes you feel strong like you want to keep going and it makes you feel better about yourself,” said fifth grader Ari Walsey.

For the third consecutive year, the school earned the Platinum Georgia Shape Award from Governor Nathan Deal’s office. Principal Dr. John Waller says the award proves students and teachers strive far beyond general school PE guidelines, working in and out of the gym to fight childhood obesity.

“Our students rotate through PE twice a week and in some cases and that’s actually more than they would get for music or art. We also know that physical activity stimulates the brain and it helps kids to concentrate on the academics, so what’s happening in that gym is really important,” Dr. Waller told FOX ’5 Portia Bruner.

Coach Julie leads “Power Up for 30,” which is an optional warm up class before the school day even begins and there’s plenty to do after school.

“We have karate, ballet, soccer and all kinds of activities so kids can sign up and stay for these activities afterward. These coaches have only been here three or four years, but they’re working really hard to keep these kids active, smart and fit,” Dr. Waller added.

The PE teachers and the PTA coordinate relays and other annual races to include parents and the surrounding community in their health and fitness goals. The Georgia Shape Award comes with new gym equipment to help elementary students keep pushing through this PE routine. Fifth grader Jaiye-ola Okaka told Bruner she learns a lot during the rigorous gym routines.

“It makes us push harder and get more stamina in our bodies and I just really love it,” the 10-year-old told Bruner before rushing back to her gym glass routine.

But the coaches say the greater reward comes from watching their students continue to thrive.

“Really, it’s just that the kids have bought into the idea of being fit,” Thibou told Bruner.

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