By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings helps kids get more active through NFL Play 60.

Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings helps kids get more active through NFL Play 60.

Minnesota Vikings Everson Griffen and Kyle Rudolph are the latest in a long line of NFL players tackling the issue of children’s health.

The players (and plenty of kids) star in a new video released Tuesday as part of the NFL Play 60 Challenge, a nationwide in-school curriculum created by the NFL and American Heart Association to help children get the exercise they need.

The video showcases what these kids and Vikings do best: have fun playing. In the cavernous Vikings practice facility, the 6-foot-3 Griffen, 6-5 Rudolph and their much-smaller co-stars are a blur of activity, playing flag football, racing down a football field and energetically discussing the importance of staying active.

It’s all fun, but it’s also serious because of obesity and other health problems that challenge today’s kids, said Courtney Jordan Baechler, M.D., who took the field with the group and explained the circulatory system to them.

It’s important to get kids started thinking about physical activity and their heart health early, she said.

“By the time people get to our office, it’s too late,” she said.

In the U.S., nearly one-third of all children are overweight or obese, according to the 2016 National Survey of Children’s Health. Only about one-third of girls and half of boys ages 6 to 11 get the recommended hour of exercise a day, according to a recent AHA report. Even fewer teens get enough exercise.

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In fact, some research has found that kids have a shorter life expectancy than their parents – a statistic that Baechler finds especially troubling as a mother and a physician.

NFL Play 60, in its 10th year, appears to be working, according to one study that showed aerobic capacity was higher and body fat lower among students at participating schools. More than 4.5 million students in 120,000 classrooms nationwide have participated in the NFL Play 60 Challenge, which is part of the NFL Play 60 program, according to the AHA.

“We love this as teachers, coaches and promoters of lifelong fitness,” said Josette Folk, a physical education teacher at Louisville Middle School in Louisville, Ohio.

Teams are joining the fun in different ways across the NFL.

For example, the Cleveland Browns are inviting second- through eighth-graders to track their physical activity for six weeks, awarding the class with the most activity with a trip to the team’s training facility.

The Green Bay Packers recently ran drills and relay races with kids at Syble Hopp School in De Pere, Wisconsin.

San Diego Chargers rookies Austin Ekeler, Nigel Harris, Sean Culkin and Dan Feeney spent a day off holding a training camp for more than 100 students from Inglewood, California’s Highland Elementary.

Even for those kids who aren’t into football or sports, keeping active is important for many reasons, including lowering anxiety and maintaining a healthy weight, Baechler said.

“You can’t not exercise these days and maintain your weight,” she said.

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