Health
1:01 am
Thu January 26, 2012

Young Constituents Propose Official State Exercise

Missouri could soon have an official state exercise. Backers of a bill in the Missouri House say an official exercise could help keep kids active and fight childhood obesity.

In all the political news lately, you may have missed Missouri House Bill 1063.  It reads, in part, “The exercise commonly known and referred to as “jumping jacks” is selected for and shall be known as the official exercise of the state of Missouri.

The bill was introduced by Representative Pat Conway, Democrat from St. Joseph.

“Well, I know that there’s some members of the General Assembly that do not believe that the state bird or the state rock or the state river or the state dinosaur is necessarily something that we want to put a lot of effort into,” says Conway.

But Conway introduced the bill under pressure constituents in St. Joseph.

"We've been trying to get the bill passed for a while now," says a fourth grader at Pershing elementary.

"My favorite exercise is jumping jacks," another adds. "It helps you get muscles.  We know that if we have a state dessert, we should probably have a state exercise."

The fourth graders say jumping jacks might put a dent in the state's high obesity rate, too.

But these fourth graders aren’t the only ones obsessed with jumping jacks lately.

First lady Michelle Obama has been campaigning against childhood obesity.  

“We wanted to break the world record for people doing jumping jacks,” she said last month.

And they did. 325,000 people jumped that day.

“If we’re worried about childhood obesity, how much kids eat is much more important than how active they are, even though physical activity is enormously important,”says Marion Nestle, a professor at NYU, and an outspoken writer on food and health.

Nestle recently wrote a blog post criticizing the first lady for moving away from politically fraught battles with food companies to things like jumping jacks.

“Food companies are fighting back against efforts to get kids and anybody else to eat more healthfully, because they’re in the business of selling food products. And the most profitable food products are the ones we would characterize as junk food,” Nestle says.

Nestle says kids do need to be more active.

“They would behave better if they were more active and could run around,” she says. “And jumping jacks are a really good way to use up a lot of energy in a short period of time.”

But she says kids can’t then go out and eat a huge bowl of the official state dessert, which, by the way, is ice cream.