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Every Minute Counts

Just a minute.
That’s the philosophy behind the JAM School Program, which provides free wellness tips and activities for teachers at about 15,000 schools in North America. The highlight of the program is the “JAMmin’ Minute,” a one-minute fitness routine that includes five simple exercises that students (and usually their teachers) do to break up the school day.
And the minute movement is growing.
“There’s a need, and it’s easy and we make it efficient, and it’s effective,” says Patti Howell, founder of Health-E-Tips, which oversees the JAM program. “You get a classroom doing it, and then it becomes, ‘Let’s get the whole school doing it!” And then it becomes, ‘Let’s get the whole district doing it!’”
Although just 60 seconds long, the JAMmin’ Minute is an effective tool in increasing physical activity at schools, research shows. Supporters of the program include First Lady Michelle Obama, who took part in a JAMmin’ Minute during a visit to an Atlanta school as part of her Let’s Move! campaign.
The program’s benefits go beyond just getting kids out of their chairs for a little exercise. When one underserved Washington, D.C. elementary school implemented the JAMmin’ Minute as its first step in developing a larger physical activity program, administrators immediately noticed students were performing better in the classroom and student attendance also increased, according to an independent study conducted by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Center to Prevent Childhood Obesity. (Full disclosure: is a project of RWJF.)
The Center concluded that the JAMmin’ Minute is an effective way for schools to implement physical activity programs, as it is easy and cost neutral.
“I think everybody’s surprised that a one-minute physical activity routine can make such a big difference,” says Howell. “We didn’t even know it could be so impactful.”
Howell and her team came up with the routines after taking part in a conference hosted by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looking at how California could combat the obesity epidemic. They knew research showed that kids should actually get up and move around every 12 minutes or so, and came up with one-minute and five-minute routines designed to get kids out of their chairs.
The JAM program soon blossomed, and word quickly spread. These days, Howell and her staff revise the one-minute routines weekly to keep things fresh for the students. Teachers receive them via email, and conduct the routines as-is or revise them to fit classroom needs.
Often, students lead their peers in the routines. Some classes even come up with their own routines, which they send to program headquarters and thus classrooms across the country.
It’s like a huge flash mob of kids getting fit each day, only without all the practice.
“Everybody can be doing it at the same time, and it created camaraderie. It’s teamwork,” Howell says. “Everyone’s equal and there’s no competition.”
One of the reasons the program is so effective, Howell says, is that it helps make physical activity a habit in children’s lives. Classes often do their JAMmin’ Minute at the same time each day, and it’s a positive experience. 
“The teachers tell us, ‘If I don’t remember to do it, the kids usually remind me,’” Howell says.
The JAMmin’ Minute also serves as a starting point for kids who wouldn’t otherwise exercise. It can be tough to convince a child who doesn’t exercise they need to be active for 60 minutes a day. Sixty seconds is an easier starting point.
Howell notes that while the JAMmin’ Minute is designed to last just 60 seconds, the kids usually stretch the routine out to four or five. “Eventually, they just keep adding onto it, and we [hope] that springboards into doing more,” she adds.
For her part, Howell makes sure to take minute-long breaks throughout the work day to stay fit. She has an alarm on her computer that dings every hour reminding her.
She usually does lunges or bicep curls at her desk, she tells us.