The Athlete's Way

Sweat and the biology of bliss

Physical Activity Empowers Kids to Achieve Personal Bests

Amy Otey combines music and movement to optimize every child’s full potential.

Physical activity is a fundamental building block for psychological and physical well-being throughout a lifespan. Unfortunately, most Americans are sitting more and moving less. This is especially a problem for our children who are being forced to sit still and cram for standardized tests while being deprived of physical activity.

How can we create school environments that allow kids to be more active? Grammy nominated singer/songwriter and fitness expert Amy Otey (aka “Miss Amy”) has created a brilliant classroom plan that combines music and movement with education, imagination, and character development. Miss Amy is on a crusade to empower every young American to achieve his or her personal best.

Have you heard of Miss Amy? As the father of a 6-year-old, I was thrilled yesterday to see that my favorite television program called What Matters Most is featuring Amy Otey in their latest episode. Amy and I are both on a mission to motivate people of all ages to lead more active and healthier lifestyles.

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Miss Amy Brings Education, Fun, and Physical Activity to the Classroom

What makes Miss Amy so refreshing is that her fun-loving approach to motivating young people to move comes across as carefree and casual—but it is actually an extremely well thought out and calculated agenda designed to get results.

In a recent phone conversation with Amy I told her that she comes in under the radar like a “stealth bomber.” Miss Amy's whole strategy to inspire activity and a "better tomorrow" is actually very serious and pragmatic but on the surface appears too playful to be science-based. Amy Otey is a thought leader in this field and has more than 20 years of professional experience in the fitness industry and an endless list of accreditations.

Miss Amy’s new book Keep Kids Fit! Classroom Activity Breaks is aligned with the 21st Century Standards Core Theme of Health Literacy and is designed to encourage children to claim their athletic identities while building positive character traits. The songs are extremely catchy and all have a positive message.

Amy and I are simpatico in that we take a macro view of the implications of inactivity and obesity. Both of us have an allegiance with Michelle Obama and the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation’s “Let’s Move! Active Schools” initiative. In 2010, Miss Amy was invited to perform on the White House lawn as part of their annual Easter festivities.

Take the President's Fitness Challenge!

Miss Amy is an official advocate for the President’s Challenge Program (a program of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition). Amy encourages families to work toward earning the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). Earning the award is easy. All it takes is a commitment to being active and eating healthier foods for 6 out of 8 weeks. Stick with the program and you can earn the award and a badge of completion in less than two months. People of all ages can sign up for the challenge.

Beyond individual well-being and achieving personal bests, Miss Amy points out that leading an inactive lifestyle creates a national security risk. According to Mission Readiness, 75 percent of 17- to 24-year olds in the U.S. are currently unable to serve in the military, primarily because they are too poorly educated, too overweight, or have a serious criminal record.

One thing that I especially love about Amy Otey’s approach to childhood fitness is that she takes a multi-pronged approach to tackle big problems related to the nationwide epidemic of inactivity. Amy Otey doesn’t talk much about losing weight, obesity or the drawbacks of not being active—instead, the emphasis is all about imagination, empowerment, character development, and creating the building blocks for a lifetime of personal bests through physicality.

Miss Amy sums up her advice to young people in an acronym reminding them to be F.I.E.R.C.E. Which stands for: Fire, Imagination, Experience, Remembrance, Connection, Education. With that in mind, Miss Amy encourages young people to, “Focus on your dreams.” I couldn’t agree more.

Conclusion: What Matters Most When Motivating Young People to Be More Active?

Please take some time to watch this in-depth What Matters Most interview with Amy Otey hosted by Eric Anzalone and produced by Maria Plass. The interview is a valuable resource for parents, teachers or anyone looking for practical and motivational tools to help make physical activity a part of every child’s daily life.

If you’d like to read more on the benefits of physical fitness throughout a lifespan, check out my Psychology Today blog posts:

Follow me on Twitter @ckbergland for updates on The Athlete’s Way blog posts.

Christopher Bergland is a world-class endurance athlete, coach, author, and political activist.

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