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State of Fitness for Universities, Schools and Military

With the current boom in the construction and expansion of university recreation centers, the emphasis on the childhood obesity epidemic and a continuation of military conflict overseas, funds and support for fitness at universities, schools and in the military show no sign of slowing down for 2005.

National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) Marketing Director Barry Brown says the growth for university recreation centers across the country is expected to continue.

“We don't see a downside. The facilities are being built; the rec centers and products they offer are a drawing card for students. It's still going to grow for quite awhile,” he says.

Since university fitness facilities are being used to recruit students, Brown has noticed an increased emphasis on marketing new facilities and new programs to keep facilities enticing. However, the old standby of club sports is still plenty popular.

“Participation in rec sports doesn't show any signs of running down,” he says. “Although there are many adults who are overweight, there's a group of young people who are doing differently. There's not a lack of people to step up and participate.”

Although more funding is needed to defeat the childhood obesity epidemic, funding from federal and state sources have been significant.

A promising $69 million in grants was awarded in October to various school districts, YMCAs and other community-based organizations across the nation from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP grants), as part of the No Child Left Behind Act. Grants were given to initiate, expand or improve physical education programs, including after-school programs for students in grades K-12. The grants ranged in size from $64,700 to $721,296 for over a period of 12-36 months, allowing for funding for 2005 and beyond.

“We must now continue our efforts to provide PEP funds for every school district in the country,” says Charlene Burgeson, executive director for the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, in a release about the grants. “In 2000, Congress authorized $400 million for PEP. To date, $184 million has been appropriated and less than four percent of our country's school districts have benefited from this important funding. We still have much work to do. Applications alone this year totaled more than 1,500.”

The military also expects to see federal dollars. The Air Force expects support for its fitness programs and initiatives including its physical training program, Fit to Fight.

“Senior officials have provided tremendous support of the Air Force Chief of Staff's Fit to Fight initiative,” says Major Tracy Witcher of the Chief Air Force Fitness and Sports Branch. “Fitness continues to receive focus and support to improve facilities and programs to help improve the fitness and readiness of troops.”

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