CWU News

CWU Educator Leads the Charge for Healthier, More Active Kids

“50 million strong by 2029” is the goal of SHAPE America under its new president, Stephen Jefferies, Central Washington University physical education professor. The organization has set a goal of getting every student in America’s schools physically active and healthy by 2029, which marks when this year’s entering preschoolers will graduate from high school.

SHAPE, the Society of Health and Physical Educators of America, focuses on childhood obesity, the No. 1 health concern among parents in the United States. One in three children and teenagers in the United States are obese or overweight, according to the American Heart Association.

“SHAPE America has a major advantage in achieving this goal because health and physical educators are present in the lives of children in almost every US school,” Jefferies said. “It’s not enough to simply present active and healthy options to kids who come from environments where healthy living is not encouraged. The new focus in schools needs to be on igniting a love of movement in kids.”

Jefferies says the challenge is to meet kids where they’re at and help them find things they enjoy.

“There are a lot of people who view physical activity as work,” he said. “I don’t view it that way. I choose to be physically active because I enjoy it. It brings joy to my life.  That’s the key to teaching kids. Kids don’t move and participate in physical activities to be healthy; they do it because they like it.” 

He further notes that, for many kids, physical education is the only regularly scheduled time they have to move and learn the importance of good health. Jefferies’ work with SHAPE America will focus on changing the way that school health and physical education teachers approach their work.

“In many instances, kids who aren’t raised being physically active don’t have the skills to be successful in after-school programs and organized sports,” Jefferies said. These are unfair disadvantages and it’s a situation that must change if we hope to prepare the next generation with the skills, knowledge, and desire to lead healthy and productive lives.”

Jeffries added that the ultimate goal is to have children naturally choose to be active in their free time—“Kids can’t become healthy just by participating in classes.”

Adults can also benefit from increased levels of physical activity—“All of us spend too much time working and not enough time enjoying our lives. We all need to be more playful,” he said. 

Jefferies, who is in his 29th year of teaching at CWU, served on the board of SHAPE Washington and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) for several years. Located in Reston, Virginia, SHAPE America represents approximately 200,000 health and physical education teachers.

May 7, 2015

Media contact: Robert Lowery, director of Content Development, 509-963-1487