Jupiter man battling ‘inactivity pandemic’ through non-profit work
Concerned with the effects of inactivity on children’s health, Jupiter resident Jim Baugh launched the non-profit organization PHIT America in 2013.
As the former president of Wilson Sporting Goods, Jim Baugh understands the importance of leading an active lifestyle.
So when the Jupiter resident began researching the effects of inactivity on children’s health, he grew alarmed.
“I saw the trends that were going on with children’s lives, and they were getting more and more sedentary,” he said. “I was president of Wilson, and I was very much involved in the sports industry. I saw the trends, and they weren’t very good for the sports industry. When I did the research, I realized it was worse than I thought. It had ramifications way beyond the sports industry. It affects the health of these kids.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than a quarter of Americans are meeting all national physical activity guidelines.
CDC studies also show that students who are physically active tend to have better grades, school attendance, cognitive performance and classroom behaviors.
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“Kids are meant to move,” Baugh said. “We are meant to move. It’s for the brain and the body. There are so many correlations between active kids and better students.”
That’s why in 2013 Baugh created PHIT America, a non-profit that strives to overcome what it calls an inactivity pandemic through education, advocacy and supporting school-based programs.
The goal of PHIT, which stands for Personal Health Investment Today, is to get more Americans, especially children, fit, active and healthy.
Baugh said that while people know that you need to be active, “the only way you can change behavior is to go to the roots of what teaches children and adults how to be physically active, how to throw, catch, run, jump and skip. Today, with nearly 50 percent of of high schools with no physical education, with recess not being there, we have generations of young kids that can’t skip, run or jump. They have no physical abilities, and they have no confidence.”
PHIT America, based in Silver Spring, Md., has partnered with more than 100 companies and organizations in an effort to change that.
Companies such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Sports Authority, Sears and the United States Tennis Association have lent their support as founding sponsors, while Reebok, adidas, Nike and Asics have donated a significant amount of money to fund PHIT America GO! Grants.
These grants, which range from $1,000 to $5,000, are awarded to elementary schools that strive to improve students’ health and fitness by creating physical activity programs.
During the past two years, PHIT America has awarded GO! Grants to 600 schools throughout the United States, including two in Palm Beach County. Gove Elementary School in Belle Glade and Cholee Lake Elementary School in Greenacres each received grant money in 2016.
Cholee Lake used its $2,300 grant to buy lacrosse, hockey and badminton equipment for the school’s 1,200 students, P.E. teacher Brendan Rubinstein said.
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“For a couple of years, we provided hockey and lacrosse to the kids, and our equipment was getting destroyed,” he said. “We couldn’t do that anymore, so it was a great opportunity with this grant to be able to bring these programs back in a better way.”
At Gove Elementary, the school has used GO! Grants funding to promote movement through a variety of programs, including Jump Rope for Heart, Walk to School and community races. The school also has bought flag football equipment, Fitbits and pedometers.
“It has been an honor to support the PHIT organization because of their passion to provide resources, guidance and funds to schools that are in need,” P.E. teacher Ellen Smith said.
GO! Grants have impacted more than 300,000 children throughout the United States.
Baugh and PHIT America director of communications Mike May, who lives in Wellington, are trying to spread their message about the importance of physical activity.
They have released a pair of videos — one is five minutes in length, the other is 30 minutes — that highlight the connection between physical activity and academic performance.
They also have built a strong alliance of companies and volunteers that are working together to promote fitness and a healthy lifestyle.
“We want to impact millions and millions of children through more physical activity programs through the schools,” Baugh said. “It’s the only way we’re going to fix the problem. It’s a health care problem. Wait till these kids grow up, and their bodies are not conditioned to move. They’re going to have more medical issues overall, and guess who’s going to pay for it?”
For more information on PHIT America or to donate to its GO! Grants program, visit www.phitamerica.org.