SACRAMENTO, CA — The California Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports is initiating a statewide fitness competition among K-12 schools to promote increased physical activity and better health among California's children. 24 Hour Fitness is providing a place for them to do just that.

High school students signing up for the challenge will be able to work out for free for 30 days at 24 Hour Fitness during selected times, and those successfully completing the challenge will get to work out for free for an additional 90 days. The club chain has worked with the California Governor's Office since Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger won the recall election in 2003.

“We're always looking for ways to combat obesity, and we certainly see the schools as a key place to do that,” says Joseph Freschi, who handles government relations at 24 Hour Fitness. “We're always looking forward to partnerships and working with a number of state departments and universities to really figure out the best programs to do that.”

The Governor's Challenge Competition offers a new fitness center to the winning school and $1,000 of physical activity equipment to 11 additional schools that succeed in getting the highest percentage of students to be active 30-60 minutes a day at least three days a week for at least four weeks prior to May 31, 2007. Students completing the challenge will each earn a certificate of completion and an official patch of the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

“At the end of the day this will help people focus on health and fitness and eventually make more of them interested in physical fitness and maybe into health clubs, no matter where they are,” says Freschi. “At the end of the day I hope membership will increase, but I hope it does for everyone — parks, YMCAs, everyone.”

Only 40 percent of California teens meet minimum daily targets for physical activity, and close to 74 percent of California youth are unfit. Research shows that regular physical activity during childhood and adolescence helps build healthier bones and muscles, increases self-esteem, and reduces the risk of obesity and diseases such as Type 2 diabetes. In addition, through results from the California Department of Education's Fitnessgram, physical activity has been shown to be highly correlated with academic success.

“I'm excited to see so many young people excited about fitness and being active,” says Gov. Schwarzenegger. “This challenge is perfect because encouraging Californians to adopt healthy, active lifestyles is a big part of my health care proposal. When we take personal responsibility for our health, we can live longer, be healthier, reduce our medical costs and improve academic achievement.”