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ImageJAMmin' Minute:
Sixty Seconds to Healthier Kids

More than six million kids are getting healthier sixty seconds at a time with the help of JAMmin' Minute®, a free physical education resource from Health-E-tips. The five-step workouts are delivered weekly to the inboxes of registered users -- teachers, administrators, school nurses, and others who share the quick routines with students. School principals often use the JAMmin' Minute as part of their morning announcements, and teachers make the most of the routine whenever students need a "brain break." The extra minutes of activity add up to better fitness and kids who are more focused on their learning. Included: See how schools make the most of this fast and free physical education resource.

"I love the idea that children move more than just passing in the hallway and in gym class," reports John Walling. "It is proven children learn better after exercise. So why not provide a brain boost to assist them in their learning?"

One way that Walling provides this "boost" to students at May Goodrell Middle school in Des Moines, Iowa, is by sharing a simple, one-minute fitness routine called the JAMmin' Minute. The short routine is delivered electronically to Registered Users each week by Health-E-Tips. There is no charge for the program.

Staff members use the JAMmin' Minute to re-energize students and help them achieve better focus. The quick exercises require no equipment and can easily be performed in the classroom. The free JAM Library is a goldmine for Walling, a healthy choices teacher.

"One teacher came to me and thanked me for sending out the JAMmin' Minute," Walling told Education World. "She said she had a class that had been very high strung and was having difficulty settling down after lunch in the winter. (It was too cold to go out for activity.) She started to use JAMmin' Minute and the students loved the activity and grew to expect the short duration of exercise. She noticed immediate positive changes."

In addition to five easy sitting or standing exercises, the JAMmin' Minute contains a basic health tip. Because it is brief, the activity lends itself well to the morning routine and is appropriate at any point in the day when students need to "wake up."

"It has been my experience that when people try the program, they never stop using it," Walling observed. "They see the benefits immediately."


Tune in to the morning announcements at Rising Star Elementary School and you'll hear the day's news, the Pledge of Allegiance, and a JAMmin' Minute. The students in Lenexa, Kansas, have been working out to the routines as part of their morning news program for three years. School Nurse Cynthia Connellan calls it "part of the school culture."

JAMmin' the Day Away

Physical education teacher Cameron Guelbert finds many ways to use JAMmin' Minute at his elementary school in Olathe, Kansas. Classroom teachers give students a "brain break" at various times during the school day and perform the exercise routine. In the gym, JAMmin' Minute serves as a warm-up and cool-down activity during classes, and it is also a station during field day, with various routines combined for a ten-minute workout.

"All 30 of our classes have their own individual routine with music filmed on video and saved on the school's computer network, allowing any teacher to follow along with at the click of a button," reported Guelbert. "Our principal has his own personalized JAM routine on video so the kids can watch and follow along."

The JAMmin' Minute was first introduced as an alternative to a part of the announcements called "Thought for the Day." Connellan had just encountered research that suggested exercise in the morning helped to get the brain awake and ready to learn. She read about some schools that improved test scores by making changes that included exercise in the morning. Online searching led her to the JAMmin' Minute.

"Teachers in the upper grades take turns having students from their class do the announcements," explained Connellan. "I supply the routine for the week. The students say, 'And now it is time for the JAMmin' Minute.' One student reads what the kids are to do and counts it out while the other students are doing it."

The school's physical education teacher led the exercises at first, but the students quickly took over the responsibility. The JAMmin' Minute contains some routines for seated exercises and in the beginning the students performed the exact routine as given. Now, the students always stand. When a seated routine arrives, Connellan looks back in the archives to find a standing routine unless the seated one can be easily altered for standing position.

"Encouraging movement as one piece of a healthy lifestyle is important. Every little bit helps," Connellan shared.

For Rising Star Elementary, the strength of the JAMmin' Minute lies in its simplicity and availability. The exercise routines are a handy tool for teachers whenever a class is a little "wiggly."

"Some teachers use the JAMmin' Minute for exercise breaks throughout the day to help kids stay active and engaged in class," Principal Chris Lash added. "The students love the JAMmin' Minute and look forward to it each day.


"JAMmin' Minute is free, it's easy, it's fun, it's important, and it's awesome!" says Cameron Guelbert. "You can start incorporating it during PE, and then gradually start introducing it to one class or one grade level. You can have the whole staff do a JAMmin' Minute at the next staff meeting, so they can learn about it."

As a physical education teacher at Regency Place Elementary School in Olathe, Kansas, Guelbert has used JAMmin' Minute as a springboard for original videotaped workouts. In the school's first year with the program, Will Shields of the Kansas City Chiefs visited the sixth grade and filmed a JAMmin' Minute routine with the students, accompanied by his own selection of music, exercises, and health tips.

Students at Regency Place Elementary School
exercise with Will Shields.
(Image provided by
Patti Howell, Health-E-tips)

"Two years ago, I started filming a routine with each classroom. Each class demonstrated the routine, and then we added music to go along with it," stated Guelbert. "The first year I did one class from each grade level. Last year, I did one for every class in our building, which was a total of 25 routines."

Teachers can use the school's computer network to access videos recorded by their classes or other classes. The kids are especially excited about doing routines designed and performed by friends in other classrooms.

"Recently, I dressed up in our school's mascot costume, which is a lion, and we videotaped a JAMmin' Minute with a first grade class," Guelbert confided. "They loved seeing the mascot doing the routine with them!"


"The beautiful part about JAM is the creative and surprising ways that schools are using it. We are amazed at how schools are adapting the program," observes Patti Howell, JAM founder and CEO. "Teachers are leading students. Students as JAM leaders are leading their classmates and the teachers, which is extremely powerful in terms of kids being leaders of fitness. PE classes use the program or, if a school is devoid of organized PE, several routines can be combined so that the teacher in charge can easily keep kids moving."

Regardless of the form that JAM takes in a school, the most important effect is that kids are learning to become leaders of fitness and discovering the value that movement plays in life and for the rest of their lives, Howell believes. Health-E-tips, Inc., launched the JAM School Program as a social responsibility initiative in response to the California governor's call to help combat childhood obesity. JAM was quickly identified as an efficient, effective, and viable solution to assist schools in their pursuit of getting kids and staff moving more each day and learning healthier daily habits. JAM is now recognized and promoted as one of the top resources that is helping school children accumulate their recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Anyone can register online to receive the weekly JAMmin' Minute, which is one part of the JAM School Program. JAM is currently operating in almost 15,000 schools and helping over six million kids get more active each day, and growing by about 225,000 new students each month.

"The limited commitment of time for the program has to attract many schools to the JAMmin' Minute®," admits Howell. "Yes, schools love how we do everything for them and how simple it is. But most importantly, kids love it because it's fun. Making fitness fun is the key to achievable success and creating habits that will last the rest of these children's lives."

"It is proven children learn better after exercise. So why not provide a brain boost to assist them in their learning?"

The JAM program is built around research that shows that short bouts of exercise are effective. JAMmin' Minute® makes it easy to get everyone up and moving more by offering fun energizers that can be done anywhere at any time while simply standing in place. Ideally, kids would rise and exercise every 15 or 20 minutes, but the program encourages schools to use the JAMmin' Minute® at least five times throughout the day, which provides five minutes each day or 25 minutes of activity each week. JAM is structured to remove all barriers to daily physical activity; everyone can participate, even the physically challenged. The perfect leader for the JAM session within a school varies -- nurse, principal, or teacher -- but Howell advises schools not to overlook the students themselves.

"Kids are actually becoming leaders and role models in this process -- from leading classmates and their teachers to authoring routines for the entire JAM community and becoming advocates of the program," she stated. "We had tons of fun this year when we invited schools or a class or a group of kids to author a JAMmin' Minute. They submitted five exercises and a simple healthier habit, and we published their routines for our entire JAM audience. It's great because these authors know they are helping keep over six million kids exercising each day."

Another popular aspect of the initiative is the JAM Blast®, which features an athlete delivering healthy living and eating messages with a five-minute routine that highlights that athlete's idea about which part of the body is most essential for peak success. Each issue of the JAM Blast has fun facts and the athlete's picture, so it proves very inspiring for kids. The JAM Web site contains several motivational JAM Videos that show students in action.

"Health-E-tips believes it's going to take a collaboration of businesses, schools, and the public to win the fight to end childhood obesity," Howell added. "In addition to the success we're experiencing with the JAM School Program, we're gaining traction with our HET Corporate Program in which we are not only assisting employee wellness but working with employers to build an army of role models who actively support JAM in schools."


"I truly believe that for our messages of daily physical activity to stick, we need to have students take ownership of their efforts," says Roberta Sipe. "As much as possible, we have students lead their peers in the exercise/fitness breaks. Early in the year, the teacher models correct format and eventually students rotate in the leadership roles."

"Kids are actually becoming leaders and role models in this process -- from leading classmates and their teachers to authoring routines for the entire JAM community and becoming advocates of the program."

Staff members and administrators at Rosa Parks-Edison Elementary in Indianapolis, Indiana, understand the science behind getting students up and active throughout the day in order to maximize learning. Sipe is the school's health and fitness teacher and the coordinator of wellness programs. In this role, she has taken many approaches to incorporating the JAMmin' Minute® into the school day, but she is most excited about this year's endeavor.

"I created a binder where a collection of physical activity break ideas is assembled. In addition, I created a menu for teachers to use on a daily basis," Sipe explained. "For example, on Monday classes can perform what we call add-on exercises, Tuesday is Army-Navy, Wednesday is Yoga and stretching, Thursday is an exercise DVD, and Friday is the JAMmin' Minute. We also have students who work on the daily television news station record the JAMmin' Minute, and teachers can pull it up in their classroom at any time during the day for a quick break."

Kids and staff at the school like to use the weekly health tips from JAMmin' Minute as discussion points. Sipe recently submitted to JAM an "Army-Navy" exercise routine created by a third grade teacher. She finds that it is her co-workers' enthusiasm for the program that drives its success. Everyone embraces and understands the ultimate goal -- to reduce childhood obesity.

In Wood County (West Virginia) Schools, Karen Northrop promotes JAMmin' Minute as Healthy Schools program coordinator. Annually since 2005, the district has collected student information (body mass index, physical fitness, and academic performance) in a database to examine possible relationships.

"We have learned that students who are aerobically fit do better on our standardized academic performance tests than students in the Needs Improvement zone," she shared. "This is consistent with research coming from many other parts of the country and internationally."

Northrop has used this information to encourage increased physical education, greater activity in physical education classes, and more activity in the classroom through routines like JAMmin' Minute multiple times per day, especially before school and during lunch.

"The literature tells us that more physically active students perform better on a variety of cognitive tasks," Northrop summarized. "This applies to physical activity over time as well as immediately before the task at hand."

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © 2011 Education World

Originally published 02/28/2011