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Making an IMPACT

A Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools grant helps San Diego Unified School District expand their innovative exercise program to improve students' health.

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Physical activity boosts body and brain function, which helps children build strong bones and do better in school, among other benefits. However, fewer than 25% of children get the recommended 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily, and one-third of American youth ages 10 to 17 are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

San Diego Unified School District’s physical education program, Increasing Movement and Physical Activity in Class Time, or IMPACT, helps keep students moving throughout the school day. This program is in addition to physical education taught by the classroom teacher or specialist and was created 10 years ago. The program’s goal is to promote healthy activity through developmentally appropriate activities and reduce childhood obesity. Students participate in this 20-minute, station-based program 3 to 5 times a week incorporating the 5 components of physical fitness. Stations are designed so classroom teachers can provide standards-based activities, helping to fill the gap at underserved schools that offer limited or no physical education classes.

Currently, the district offers IMPACT at 22 campuses. Thanks to a $55,000 Action Plan Grant from Kaiser Permanente, the district recently expanded IMPACT to 11 of those sites. The grant enabled the district to leverage a retired physical education teacher as the trainer and technical assistance provider to support the schools with implementing IMPACT.   

Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools, in partnership with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, works to help schools create healthier environments through policy, system, and environmental change efforts. The Action Plan Grants program supports participating school districts in executing their Healthy Schools Program projects.

“For many students, school is the only place for them to get the physical activity they need. Innovative programs like IMPACT support more students with increasing their exercise and provide the tools they need to be active outside of the school day. This can potentially lead to better health and well-being and exercise habits that last a lifetime.”

--Sandra Silva, director, Community Health, Kaiser Permanente Southern California

Exercise benefits for children and teens

Regular physical activity can help improve cardiorespiratory fitness, build strong bones and muscles, control weight, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and decrease the risk of developing serious health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Physical activity also enhances cognitive skills such as concentration and attention, as well as classroom attitudes and behaviors, all of which are important factors of improved academic performance, according to the CDC.

Lynn Barnes-Wallace, a project resource teacher in SDUSD who helped spearhead IMPACT, said the grant has made a big difference.

“The funding from Kaiser Permanente has allowed us to push out IMPACT to more schools in the district and to hire a retired teacher to support each school site,” Barnes-Wallace said. “This was key in the success of the program because of the personal assistance provided by the retired teacher.” 

The IMPACT stations align with state physical education standards and the 5 components of physical fitness for a well-balanced workout routine. Students even help set up and take down the stations to further engage them in the activity.

Physical Fitness Components with Student Examples

Cardiovascular Endurance: Increases aerobic capacity through participation (5th grader)
Agility: Moves within a large group without bumping or falling, using different locomotor skills (Kindergartener)
Muscle Strength: Climbs or hangs from a horizontal ladder (1st grader)
Muscle Endurance: Performs abdominal and oblique curl-ups (3rd grader)
Flexibility: Stretches using correct form (4th grader)

San Diego Unified School District is second in a series of stories highlighting how recent recipients of the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools Action Plan Grants in participating school districts are using the funding to inspire long-term, sustainable change. From increasing student physical activity to improving staff social-emotional well-being, studies show a positive school environment helps boost academic achievement, classroom behavior, job satisfaction and retention, and overall health, among other benefits.