By Dennis Douda, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Centers for Disease Control has called childhood obesity in America a crisis. It is happening at a time when budget cuts are forcing many school districts to cut physical education programs. But a Twin Cities high school is teaming up with the University of Minnesota to fight for fitness. 

Eastview High School in Apple Valley has been using heart monitors for 15 years to track student fitness. Tenth grade student Ryan McGuire said the results are life-changing.

“I’m really into stuff like this, biology in general,” said McGuire. “Exercising more can help you in every single aspect of life, not just being more fit or being more athletic. It can make you smarter. It can make you more focused.”

McGuire is one of 40 Eastview students scheduled to make a field trip to the School of Kinesiology within in the School of Education at the University of Minnesota. The students have an oxygen monitoring mask strapped on their face and then run on a treadmill that increases in speed and incline.

After about 10 minutes, the students reach a stage that researchers call “failure.”  They can no longer keep up the pace.

“We’re measuring what we call the VO2 max, so their ability to utilize oxygen,” said researcher Stacy Ingraham, PhD.

Ingraham said more than just the students’ hearts and legs get a workout.

“We do know test scores will go up if we are more fit,” said Ingraham. “There’s enough validity there in that data [to show] if you want to improve [academic] scores, the last thing you want to do is eliminate recess or physical education.”

Ingraham said for 50 years schools have been using the President’s Fitness Challenge as a yardstick of student health. But she argues that program is more of a test of athleticism. She hopes scientific testing will make more policy makers aware of the value of having truly fit youth.


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