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Richard Simmons pushes fitness at LA school

April 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Not only is child obesity on the rise, but compounding the problem is the fact that funding for physical education is on the decline. It's a dangerous combination getting the attention of well-known fitness activist Richard Simmons.

Friday, Simmons showed local 3rd- and 5th-graders how important physical activity can be in their lives.

He's wild, crazy and wears funny shorts, but no matter what you say about Richard Simmons, he knows how to get the kids moving.

The fitness icon knows how to have fun, but he was at Antonio Maria Lugo Academy on serious business.

"We're in this great country and we're in such trouble now with money and economy and jobs," said Simmons.

With schools across the nation cutting down on recess and physical education classes, Simmons's goal is to get support for the American Heart Association's FIT Kids Act (Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act).

The FIT Kids Act would establish a framework for schools to take a closer look at physical education.

"Now it's going to be voted on with the new education bill and we need this education bill," said Simmons. "Our schools are in trouble. They're in trouble with teachers, too many kids in class. What we have to do now is we have to step back and go, 'Hey, let's get this together.'"

The Huntington Park charter school partners with outside fitness providers and health food vendors to give students structured exercise and nutrition education for students. But it's still a struggle.

"We could always do more," said the school's principal, Sarah Ali. "And that's something that we'd like to be able to do, but in the face of budget cuts, things like PE time and a PE teacher is hard."

Simmons tells kids how he used to weigh 200 pounds in the 8th grade and how fitness changed his life. His words and his actions inspire students.

Simmons teaches about 200 fitness classes a year across the United States and Europe.

Simmons turns 63 in July.

Simmons is hoping the FIT Kids Act will be included in the new education law.