Posts Tagged ‘Jim Sallis’

Awards and Rewards for a Lifetime of Achievement

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011


On May 10, 2011, I met a Super Bowl MVP and an Olympic gold medalist–in the same day.  That was a first for me, and these were only some of the sports celebrities gathered in a spectacular chamber in a US Senate Office Building.  The occasion was even more special because I was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition.  Most of the other awardees came to that moment mainly through sports.  One of the more interesting awardees brought Tae Kwon Do to the US and is in the Black Belt Hall of Fame.  Pretty cool.  Because I was a scrawny, poorly coordinated kid, I arrived by a different route, though I did enjoy all the hours I spent playing sports in my neighborhood.  My connection to sports and fitness is through health research.  Though physical activity research is often in the news, I admit to being jealous about the attention paid to genetically-superior athletes who perform incredible feats of endurance, strength, skill, and determination.  Think about all the media exposure for sports each week.  The irony is that appreciation of sports performance inspires a lot more sitting and watching than active emulation.  Part of the job of physical activity promoters is to get sports fans (and everyone else) off the bleachers and the sofa and out onto the field, the road, the court, and the trail.  I’m glad the President’s Council is bringing the sparkle of sports celebrities to the goal of getting Americans more active.

SPARK had a lot to do with me getting this award.  There are many physical activity researchers who have published papers and been vocal advocates for active living.  However, few of us have been fortunate enough to see our research lead directly to improving the lives of millions.  Over the years, SPARK has certainly provided millions of young people with enjoyable, skill-building physical activity.  This is possible because of the thousands of teachers and recreation leaders SPARK has trained–and trained well.  I assure you that the fantastic accomplishments of SPARK are reward enough.  It’s very nice to get an award, but important to recognize that SPARK’s success, as well as the contributions of many research collaborators, made the award possible.  Even better than the award is seeing that SPARK just keeps getting better.  More programs.  More partners.  More research and evaluation.  Smart use of technology to support teachers.  More activity for more people.  There are more rewards coming for SPARK.  Which awards can we nominate SPARK for?

Jim Sallis

The Campaign to Exterminate Physical Activity

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I was taking a delightful bike ride on a sunny but brisk December day in San Diego, and I actually passed a father and son who were riding electric bikes (no pedaling). Just a couple of minutes later I saw a family zipping around like robots on Segways. Those images kind of spoiled my ride—for two reasons.

First, instead of encouraging their kids to be active, these parents were promoting the easy joys of slothfulness.  I’m sure they thought they were being good parents by having fun with their children, getting them outdoors, and introducing them to cool technology.  Here we are, 10 years into the New Millenium, and teaching your child to avoid physical activity is still considered good parenting.  With childhood obesity constantly in the media, why aren’t parents, as well as health professionals, public officials, school officials, and people in general, more concerned about making sure kids get enough physical activity?

That brings me to the second thought that spoiled my ride.  The campaign to exterminate physical activity!  Since the dawn of humanity people have been dreaming of ways to reduce their walking, get someone else to do the heavy work, and avoid sweating.  For millennia it was pretty hard to avoid physical activity and stay alive.  But in the past couple of hundred years, humanity’s dreams have come true.  One of the main motivations of the Industrial Revolution was to supply people with the Labor Saving Devices they craved, and gazillions of dollars have been made in the process.  Technological innovations have taken physical activity out of most work, transportation, and household tasks.  Our homes and offices are filled with Labor Saving Devices, from the electric can opener to the computer to the car.

The extermination has taken about 200 years, but it is almost complete.  Now, efforts to finally eradicate physical activity are getting a bit ridiculous.  Is it so onerous to walk a quarter mile that you would pay $5000 for a Segway?  Are people so committed to laziness that they will ride a bike that does the pedaling for them?  Is there any longer a problem of too-much-activity that needs a solution?

What all this means is that we have a lot of work to do.  Physical activity has been mainly exterminated, to catastrophic effect for our physical and mental health and medical costs.  But still, people buy any gizmo that promises to squeeze the last few minutes of activity from their day.  The Fitness Revolution of the 1980s did not create a culture of activity.  Parents are not teaching their children to enjoy movement, dance, games, and sport as much as they need to.  Appreciating new gizmos seems to take precedence.

Those of us who want to create better health through more activity continue to face big challenges.  Looks like my resolution for 2011 will be to get a little better at encouraging people to enjoy being active.

Jim Sallis

Sharing the Good News…

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

I want to share an enjoyable moment with you.  Recently, I was in Sacramento to film a discussion on physical activity promotion in schools organized by the California Department of Public Health’s Project LEAN.  When the video is posted online, I’ll let you know.

While we were waiting in the “green room” before the filming I had inspiring conversations with my fellow panelists whom I had just met.  A former teacher of the year who works in a small town was talking about his efforts to improve physical education in his new position at district manager of physical education, health, and sports.  One of his goals was to use a common curriculum so students would benefit from a cohesive approach throughout their time in his district.  He also wanted teachers in elementary and middle schools to communicate about physical education using the same terms and principles.  I was pleased when he started talking about SPARK as his curriculum of choice.  Beyond that, he saw SPARK as a partner in his efforts.  He was enthusiastic about the support he received in planning his strategy, the quality of the training and the trainers, and that the curricula had consistent principles across levels applied in an age-appropriate way.  He was really surprised when I told him I am a co-founder of SPARK.  He thanked me for starting such a great program, and I thanked him for embracing SPARK.

The other panelist was a superintendent of a California school district.  Though she was not a PE teacher, she was highly committed to coordinated school health and very familiar with SPARK.  It was a treat to hear her impressions about SPARK and her appreciation for the efforts of the SPARK staff to support her efforts to improve the health of children in her district.  She had seen SPARK benefit those students, who are largely low-income and Latino.  Based on her experience, she recommends SPARK to others, and what could be more influential to school officials than a recommendation from a superintendent?

It was truly heart-warming to hear these unsolicited testimonials about SPARK.  These school leaders did not know my connection with SPARK when they enthused about it, so I know it was totally genuine.  This a good moment to thank the SPARK staff for their daily and nightly efforts to make physical education GREAT and to improve children’s health.

Jim Sallis

More good news!

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

After my excitement about the President and First Lady announcing multiple strategies for combating childhood obesity on February 9, I did not imagine the next good news would come so soon. Two weeks later, on February 24, 2010, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger held a summit on health and obesity. He was joined by Bill Clinton, which made it a star-studded and bipartisan event.

The real action came at the press conference after the summit. The Governor announced new bills and executive actions that again place California at the forefront of public health efforts to improve physical activity, eating, and obesity. There were several important policy initiatives introduced, as explained in a press release: Most of the policies were designed to increase children’s physical activity! This focus on getting California kids active is very welcome. The policies cover a wide range of issues, including simplifying funding for joint use agreements, targeting Safe Routes to Schools funding to disadvantaged communities, and requiring 30 minutes of daily physical activity in after-school programs.

Of particular interest is the proposed law to require 50% of PE classes to be spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) by 2013. This has been a public health objective for decades, but has never been adopted by a state. If passed, this bill could start a national trend to align public health and education goals. The goal of PE has always been to “teach through the physical” so I expect this law to help PE meet its multiple goals. Requiring 50% MVPA will stimulate teachers to find ways of teaching skills and knowledge through activity, in a way that will meet the current health needs of children.

Even when the bill passes, there is a long way to go to effective implementation. Between now and 2013, the PE community and public health advocates will need to work hard, work smart, and work together to obtain the funding needed to train teachers, adopt curricula, and develop practical accountability systems required to bring highly active PE classes to all California students. We will have to be sure that improvements are made in the low-resource schools that have the poorest quality PE now. But the effort will be worth it. More-active PE will be great for California children’s health and academic performance. This will be a big step toward defeating childhood obesity. I believe that highly-active PE classes will be seen as an improvement in quality by school administrators, parents, and legislators. Improving quality is a strong foundation for increasing PE minutes per week and bringing PE to all high school students.

Please write to the Governor and your representatives in Sacramento expressing your support for these bills that will help California children become more active and healthy. Make sure the professional and civic organizations you belong to support these bills. This is a great opportunity for California physical activity and physical education advocates, so let’s make sure the bills are passed, then work for the funding and support to implement them throughout the State. If you are not in California, then recommend your state’s leaders adopt the same, or even better, measures to improve children’s physical activity. Let’s see which state will win!

Jim Sallis

Physical Inactivity- A Growing Crisis

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

This is my first blog. What I’ll try to do is share thoughts that might be useful in furthering my goal of getting people more active, thus healthier and happier. I want to start with the big picture as I see it. Most Americans are very inactive, and the rest of the world is trying to catch up with us. Based on accelerometer monitoring in the NHANES study, fewer than 10% of teenagers and 5% of adults meet physical activity guidelines. The real number is probably higher because accelerometers miss some activities, but I’m sure it is closer to the truth than surveys. If 95% of adults smoked, we would consider it a health crisis, but that’s about where we are with physical inactivity. We should consider it a crisis.

The epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes in adults and children are indications that low activity levels, along with disastrous eating habits, are the biggest health challenges of our time. I suggest you check out The basic idea is that 3 behaviors—smoking, inactivity, poor diet—are the main causes of four diseases—heart disease, cancers, lung disease, diabetes—that account for 50% of deaths worldwide. Physical inactivity is one of the big three, so we need to be serious about improving the situation.

I want to end on a positive note. With support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as several health organizations, a National Plan for Physical Activity is being developed. Having a plan does not ensure we will be successful, but not having a plan is a good way to guarantee continued failure. There are opportunities to have input into the development of The Plan, and it is essential that every person who believes physical activity is essential for health is directly involved in the implementation of plan. As a first step, visit

Jim Sallis