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 youth.

“I'm excited to see so many young people excited about fitness and being active,” says Gov. Arnold 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."

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.

Jake Steinfeld, founder of Major League Lacrosse, Exercise TV and “Body by Jake,” and chairman of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, joined the governor in announcing the start of the Governor’s Challenge Competition at Will C. Wood Middle School.

“Governor Schwarzenegger and I want this competition to inspire you and other young people in schools across the state to get moving and feel the benefits associated with being physically fit,” Steinfeld told a group of seventh and eighth graders.

Students can sign up to take the Governor’s Challenge at www.CalGovCouncil.org and log their active days themselves, or teachers can administer the Governor’s Challenge for them. Either way, all students must complete the challenge by May 31 to help their school qualify for the competition’s prizes—a new fitness center and $1,000 of physical activity equipment, which are being made possible by the Blue Cross of California Foundation.

Students completing the challenge will each receive a certificate of completion and an official patch of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. High school students signing up for the challenge will get 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.

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.