Shifting Focus to Physical Activity

Just as schools are finding new pathways to deliver education, so too, are The Cooper Institute Youth Programs. Historically, both Cooper Youth Programs, the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project and the Healthy Zone School Program, have focused on evaluating the impact of physical activity/nutrition related initiatives on youth fitness and health.

However, the uncertain educational settings across the nation have caused a shift in program implementation and delivery of education for the 2020 – 2021 school year. The need to alter our focus was further confirmed by recent research from The Cooper Institute that found a significant decrease in levels of physical activity among youth in the USA during the COVID-19 pandemic. This evidence has called for slight changes in programmatic priorities for the upcoming school year, and as such, The Cooper Institute will focus on increasing physical activity levels of students in all participating schools. To accomplish this goal, we have created the following resources:

  • FitnessGram Online Learning Modules: Provide teachers with resources (written and video content) to deliver education on the importance of health-related physical fitness.
  • FitnessGram Activity Tracker: A free App to track youth physical activity (i.e. steps and minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity). Coming early next year 2021.
  • Get 60: Fit 4 FitnessGram Video: In collaboration with Hip Hop Public Health, the video will provide students and teachers with 60 minutes of exercise designed to improve health-related physical fitness. The video will be divided into four, 15-minute segments: aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal fitness, combination training, and yoga.

In preparation for the upcoming school year, The Cooper Institute hosted virtual events for all schools that are participating in Cooper Youth Programs. More information on these events can be found below.


NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project –
Virtual Training Camp

The Cooper Institute believes in order to have successful program implementation; teachers need adequate support right from the start. For the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project, Virtual Training Camps were established to accomplish this support through training, collaboration, and professional development. On September 29 and 30, 2020, the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project partners including The Cooper Institute, American Heart Association, Fuel Up to Play 60, and NFL FLAG came together to welcome all new schools to the project.

These two sessions focused on several key introductory topics such as a project overview, training on program requirements, and guidance on available resources. Additionally, all schools that are already part of the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project came to a separate session held on October 1, 2020 that highlighted any program updates for the 2020-2021 school year.

With the current pandemic and inconsistent learning environments, the Virtual Training Camps also allowed the opportunity to modify and manage expectations of the program. The main message of this year’s Virtual Training Camps was for all 320 participating schools to implement the NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project with the highest priority being the health and safety of their students. The NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project Team commends all participants of this project for their dedication to not only keeping their students physically active, but committing to improving their overall health.

Click here to learn about The NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Project.


Healthy Zone School Program – Orientation

On September 23, 2020, The Cooper Institute and United Way of Metropolitan Dallas hosted the first Virtual Healthy Zone School Program Orientation for 29 participating schools. The event brought together teachers from across North Texas to continue to create a culture of health amidst the COVID-19 pandemic for all students regardless of school setting. The Virtual Orientation was an opportunity for teachers to learn about incorporating new online physical activity resources, social distancing during Physical Education, and how to successfully implement the Healthy Zone School Program during COVID-19.

This year, a primary focus of the Healthy Zone School Program is to increase access to essential needs for families and schools during the pandemic. Each participating school is provided program funding to help address critical needs such as, food insecurity, personal protective equipment, physical inactivity, and social emotional wellbeing. In addition, program branded masks were distributed to each school to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 as students return to the classroom. The Healthy Zone School Program applauds the dedication of schools to prioritize the health of their students and communities now and Well. Into the Future.

Click here to learn more about the Healthy Zone School Program.


Written by The Cooper Institute

The Cooper Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 1970 by Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, to promote life-long health and wellness worldwide through research, education and advocacy. By improving public health, The Cooper Institute helps people lead longer, healthier lives now and #WELLintothefuture.