As adults, we often jump-start our physical activity each new year by joining a gym or setting a goal to walk, ski or move more.
We can ignite that spark for activity in our kids by signing them up for a free activity challenge that’s unique to Alaska. This Healthy Futures Challenge kicks off today in more than 100 elementary schools across the state. Schools and home school programs can still sign up online so more Alaska families can participate and be active together.
For the past 20 years, the Healthy Futures Challenge has provided a fun, free way for Alaska children to track any activity they do inside and outside of school. Over the months, children in grades K–6 earn prizes for meeting their physical activity goals. Over the years, they build a habit that has a long list of positives.Daily activity helps them — and all of us — feel better, reduce anxious feelings and stress, focus on tasks, improve sleep, and prevent many health problems that could develop years later.
Healthy Futures provides a free way for families wanting a healthier 2022.
Throughout this year, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is running Healthy You in 2022 to share many ways to feel better, body and mind. These include no-cost and low-cost programs that we support, like the Healthy Futures Challenge.
In 2011, the Alaska health department and its Play Every Day campaign started working with the Healthy Futures program, an Alaska-based nonprofit organization. That partnership continues today to ensure as many schools and children as possible can participate and stay active.
Each school year, Healthy Futures runs a three-month challenge that takes place in the spring and fall for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The Spring Healthy Futures Challenge will begin Feb. 1, 2022, and will continue through April 30, 2022.
Children who participate in the Healthy Futures Challenge aim for the daily recommendation of 60 minutes of physical activity — or play every day. Participating elementary-age students will keep a simple log of their daily physical activity with the goal of being active at least 60 minutes a day for 15 days each month. They can count active time in gym class and during recess.
Over the years, Healthy Futures has been able to expand the challenge to more school districts, elementary schools and students. In the program’s early years, it offered a free physical activity challenge in about 30 elementary schools during the 2003-04 school year. About 2,300 students participated in that challenge. Today, 106 elementary schools have signed up for the challenge that starts in February. These schools represent 26 school districts that serve large communities like Anchorage and Fairbanks and small ones like Pilot Point, Utqiagvik and Ketchikan.
“During the past two decades, we’ve watched tens of thousands of children participate and stay active,” said Harlow Robinson, executive director for Healthy Futures. “Even during the pandemic, almost 100 schools found ways to keep participating to help children stay active no matter where or how they were learning. Last fall, more than 7,000 Alaska children met their Healthy Futures activity goals, and we’re hoping even more children participate and have fun moving this spring.”
It’s not too late to sign up
Healthy Futures is able to continue offering the challenge to schools and students for free due to funding and support from multiple partners. Long-time partners include the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and Play Every Day campaign, as well as Alaska Kidney Foundation, Mat-Su Health Foundation, ConocoPhillips Alaska, and Providence Health & Services Alaska. The success of the challenge to support thousands of active Alaska children also depends on principals and teachers. These teachers, often physical education and health teachers, volunteer their time to run the challenge in their schools, collect activity logs, and hand out prizes to students who meet their activity goals. Schools also earn banners to hang in their gyms, recognizing high participation among students and longtime commitment to the challenge.
Is your child’s school signed up for the Spring Healthy Futures Challenge? It’s not too late for schools or home school programs to sign up online, making the challenge available to more families across Alaska.
This article brought to you by our partner – Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Play Every Day campaign.