Keep Gym in School

09/03/2009  |  ROD WOODSON
physical fitness

As an NFL Network analyst and in my years as a professional football player for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, and Oakland Raiders, I have had the opportunity to travel the country. Over the past decade, I have been struck by the fact that no matter what city I visit, the parks are mostly empty.  It seems to get worse and worse every year.  Kids are just not playing outside the way they did when I was growing up. 

One of the biggest misconceptions about youth
fitness is that children don’t want to be active.

At the same time, we all know the statistics that childhood obesity is at epidemic proportions in our country. There are 12.5 million overweight kids in the U.S. — twice as many as 20 years ago, according to the Centers Disease Control. The American Heart Association says in-school PE is the best way to provide physical activity and help children sustain healthy lifestyles. Beyond the health benefits, physical activity makes it easier for students to focus in other classes and is known to enhance overall academic performances. Yet school PE has had significant funding cuts and fewer than 10 percent of middle schools provide the recommended daily amount of PE for all students.

NFL Network created Keep Gym In School to address this issue.  Under the banner of Play60, the NFL’s campaign to get children active for 60 minutes per day, Keep Gym In School seeks to make fitness a priority for schools by restoring physical education.  Through this program, NFL Network has donated more than $220,000 to deserving schools in its inaugural year, building new outdoor tracks, restocking gym equipment, funding teachers and more. 

Motivation and inspiration is just as important, so we host minicamps with NFL stars such as  Arizona Cardinals Kurt Warner and Washington Redskins Antwaan Randle El.  We track the kids’ fitness levels over the course of a six month period, ensuring the fun leads to accountability and concrete direction along the way.  

I know from having five kids that as great as programs like Keep Gym In School areon, fitness starts at home.  Parents have to take an active role in making sure  our children have a strong foundation that includes fitness as a priority.  We cannot rely entirely on our schools, many of which no longer require physical fitness as part of students’ education, to help set the next generation on the road with healthy habits.  Keep in mind these habits are formed in earlier years and stay with them their entire lives. 


One of the biggest misconceptions about youth fitness is that children don’t want to be active.  Of course we all know that the first response you get when you tell your kids to turn off the TV is often “no.”    But once they are outside, they have a great time.  I get this response myself from my kids.  They love video games, TV and computers, as do all their friends.  However when they go outdoors they are very active  and are big fans of volleyball, four square and other games.  We also are active together as my wife and I often join the kids in the activities which brings us closer together as a family.  


In life and with physical fitness we need to have expectations for our children.  The NFL minicamps we host at middle schools are full of high energy.  The entire school gets involved including the band, cheerleaders and the entire student body.  One of the things I try to impart to the group is that this day is supposed to be fun.  It’s  designed to provide students the encouragement and tools to start  changing their habits to become more healthy.

Here is what I have learned from being involved, with the help of committed teachers and parents, these students can rise to the challenge and many have changed their lifestyles to become more active.  To find out more about NFL Network’s Keep Gym In School, go to: or 

Rod Woodson is an analyst on NFL Network’s Total Access and will be entered into the NFL Hall of Fame in August 2009. He lives in California with his wife of 17 years and has five children.

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