- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Looking at the superhero-size biceps exploding out of Jake Steinfeld's T-shirt, it's hard to believe that he once was a heavy child with a thick stutter.
Mr. Steinfeld, better known as the head of the Body by Jake fitness franchise, found his raison d'etre when his father bought him a set of weights when he was 14.
Now Mr. Steinfeld is trying to have the same positive impact on as many schoolchildren as possible to reverse the trend toward flabby, physically unfit students.
His Don't Quit Foundation brings health-club-level fitness machines into school buildings.
Banneker Senior High School in Northwest is the latest recipient of Mr. Steinfeld's largess. The school opened its new fitness center Oct. 10, unveiling about $75,000 worth of new Nautilus equipment.
The new center brings the number of such facilities to 22 for the Los Angeles-based nonprofit.
Students at Banneker won't have to mimic Mr. Steinfeld's physique for the center to prove effective, though.
Just ask "Jake."
"At the core of what we're doing is self-esteem and confidence," says Mr. Steinfeld, whose goofy smile counterbalances his massive physique. If students engage themselves in a fitness regimen, "just maybe, they won't join a gang, smoke or do drugs," he adds.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree, reporting that physical activity can build teamwork, self-discipline, leadership and socialization skills in students.
The new gym looks like any health club, though the exposed brick walls are a tip-off about the building's other role, as a school. Students can use the center before and after school begins, and physical-education classes will incorporate the machines into their curricula.
"The whole mental-physical thing works hand in hand," says Mr. Steinfeld, who has trained Harrison Ford and Madonna, among other buff celebrities.
"Kids are getting fatter and fatter and slower and slower," the Brooklyn native says.
A 1999 study by the CDC showed that more than one in three students in grades nine through 12 didn't engage in regular physical activity, and nearly half didn't play on sports teams. Only 29 percent attended daily physical-education classes, a steep dip from 1991, when 42 percent of high school students took such classes.
Mr. Steinfeld says gyms inspire friendly competitions among students, genial clashes over who can perform the most push-ups or whose "guns," or biceps, are bigger.
"You get in the gym. You're gonna feel so great about yourself," says Mr. Steinfeld, author of the forthcoming book "Get Strong: Body by Jake's Guide to Building Confidence, Muscles and a Great Future for Teenage Guys." "When you have confidence, you can do anything."
Banneker students explored the gleaming treadmills and weight machines at the center's opening ceremonies, eager to put them to use.
"I want to work out my abs and get a six-pack," boasted 14-year-old Saam Khafra.
Parris Bourne, 14, knows firsthand how a healthy body translates into healthy grades.
"All of it builds confidence," Parris says. "When I ran track, it made me want to do better in school. I'm going to play basketball this year. I wanna be able to run out on the court and not be tired."
Jeff Balough, 16, says his family has a history of heart disease and he hopes to start a healthier lifestyle to break the pattern. He plans to use the cardiovascular equipment toward that end.
"It's a lot more convenient to get to," he says of the new gym.

Abraham Lincoln Middle School, which received its own Don't Quit Fitness Center two years ago, has a slimmer student body these days, Principal Enrique Watson says.
"In two years, I've seen a difference," Mr. Watson says. "Kids love it, and they look forward to going there. They've gained a sense of appreciation for a healthy body and a healthy mind."
Mr. Watson's students visit the center twice a week as part of their regular physical education. The center enabled the school to expand into cardiovascular and strength-training components.
The equipment may no longer be new, but students have made sure it remains in good working order.
"The kids have really taken care of it. That was a concern," Mr. Watson says.
The CDC recommends that students involve themselves in some sort of activity daily, plus at least three sessions of 20 or more minutes with moderate to vigorous exertion to improve cardiovascular fitness.
Elementary school children should build up from 30 minutes to 60 minutes of activity every day, if possible, with bursts of vigorous activity of at least 15 minutes a day, the CDC says.

Dr. Dorothy Richmond, director of Georgetown University Medical Center's eating assessment and treatment team, says today's students are less fit then their predecessors.
"Schools are cutting way back on physical education that's a problem," Dr. Richmond says.
Safety plays a role in this decrease because some parents prefer to drive their children around town rather than have them walk or bicycle to their destinations alone or with a friend.
The much-maligned "idiot box" also contributes to the growing lethargy among the younger set.
"When they watch TV, their metabolic rate is equivalent to being in a trance," Dr. Richmond says, with their hearts beating at below the normal resting rate.
Families should plan athletic group activities, such as hikes, to instil in children the values of a healthy lifestyle, she recommends. "If your idea of fun is going to an all-you-can-eat buffet, those habits are hard to shake," she warns parents.
She suggests that parents take small steps toward improving their children's health, such as modifying a child's diet to make it more nutritious and parking the family car farther away at the local mall to encourage more walking.
"The only thing that really works is making little changes and sticking to them," she says.


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