Program helps school kids pick up the pace

Running School hosts inaugural Family Fun Run to encourage kids and families to get fit
By: Sena Christian, The Press Tribune
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Brad Kearns thinks kids in the United States today are in “dire straits.” Too many live sedentary lifestyles, suffer from childhood obesity and are at risk of serious health problems. Numerous studies support his claims that American youth need to lead healthier, more active lives. In children ages 6 to 11, 19.6 percent are obese and 18.1 percent of adolescents, ages 12 to 19, are obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Poor diet and lack of exercise can eventually cause diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and bone and joint pain. Low self-esteem and depression can also surface. As founder of Running School, an Auburn-based nonprofit organization, Kearns attacks this problem by encouraging cardiovascular activity among youth. “Aerobic fitness is the most important health marker,” Kearns said. “It’s more important than how far you can throw a baseball, if you can’t even run around the bases.” Running School and Whole Foods Market have teamed up for an inaugural Family Fun Run Sunday, Jan. 23, in Roseville to raise awareness about physical fitness. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit organization. Participants of all ages can run or walk the 5K, 10K or 13.1-mile course. The one-mile kids fun run — for their parents, siblings, friends and anyone else, too — is free and not timed. During the event, joggers will travel on smooth pedestrian trails, alongside creeks, through wetlands, greenbelts and parks and around bike trails. Walkers, strollers and leashed dogs are welcome on the kids fun run. After completing the run, enjoy a healthy Whole Foods breakfast buffet, climbing wall for kids, inflatable obstacle course and BMX aerial show. Jill Miller, a spokeswoman for Whole Foods Market in Roseville, said she was blown away by Kearns’ energy and enthusiasm when he pitched the idea to cosponsor the event. “We always partner with nonprofit organizations that promote health and wellness,” Miller said. “We get approached by many different organizations but what really resonated with me is that schools are having to cut their physical education curriculum because of budget cuts. And Whole Foods is all about healthy lifestyles, eating well and moving well.” Kearns is also all about health and wellness. The 45-year-old had a nine-year career as a triathlete, earning more than 30 wins worldwide on the professional circuit. Currently, Running School partners with 10 elementary and middle schools in northern California and Nevada — representing about 5,000 children — to host fitness days four times a semester. The day begins with a timed long-distance run, followed by sprint races and ends with a self-paced endurance obstacle course, complete with a balance bar, zigzag lanes, hurdles, tunnel crawls, bunny hops and more. The students’ long-distance results are tracked against Healthy Fitness Zone standards, a performance benchmark graded by age and sex. The standards reflect fitness levels that offer some protection against inactivity-related health problems. The standards measure aerobic capacity, body mass index, abdominal strength, flexibility and more. For instance, a fifth-grade boy should be able to run a mile under 11 minutes and 30 seconds. A fifth-grade girl is expected to cover that distance in 12 minutes and 30 seconds. “Typically, only 60 percent pass (in California),” Kearns said. “So that means 40 percent are deemed unhealthy and at risk of health problems. Our (Running School) kids achieve that standard at 86 percent.” The program focuses on individual achievement and personal improvement, rather than pitting students against one another. The goal is to cultivate a positive attitude toward competition and exercise. “We have overly competitive youth sports or inactive kids,” Kearns said. “There’s no in-between.” Running School programs and family-oriented events may help fill this “in-between” void. The organization and Whole Foods Market hope to make the Family Fun Run an annual event. “This is a great opportunity to start the year off right, get some physical activity and have some fun,” Miller said. Sena Christian can be reached at ---------- Family Fun Run What: Inaugural run/walk sponsored by Running School and Whole Foods Market, featuring a 5K, 10K and 13.1-mile run, and a free one-mile kids fun run When: 10K and 13.1-mile run begins at 8:30 a.m., 5K at 8:35 a.m. and one-mile kids run at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 23 rain or shine Where: Whole Foods Market, 1001 Galleria Blvd. in Roseville. Run starts at the Fountains promenade and goes on paved pedestrian trails, alongside creeks, through wetlands and on bike trails. Cost: 5K costs $30 for adults or $15 for youth under 18. The 10K costs $35 for adults or $20 for youth under 18. The 13.1-mile run costs $50. The one-mile kids run is free (enter on race day). Info: To register, visit