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Denver students jump for world record

They’re still counting just how many people took part in the nationwide effort Tuesday to break the Guinness World Record for most people doing jumping jacks in a 24-hour period, but this much is certain:

At least 62 students and teachers at Denver’s North High School were doing them, along with at least one First Lady, who jumped in front of the White House.

The record is just over 20,000 jumpers.

Students throughout Colorado and across the United States were expected to take part in the assault on the jumping jacks record, spurred on by First Lady Michelle Obama, whose Let’s Move program has made battling childhood obesity her top priority.

“Doing jumping jacks is great because no equipment is needed,” said Jeff Taylor, chairman of the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness in Colorado, and one of the participants at North. “We hope it shows kids they can do something active and fun like breaking a Guinness World Record.”

The North High event attracted students from two physical education classes, some special education students, members of the Junior ROTC and “a couple of stragglers we found in the hallway that needed to get some exercise,” said North assistant principal Kevin Bendjy.

It was held in the school’s new Sound Body Sound Mind fitness center, a state-of-the-art free weight and cardio studio that’s open for after-school exercise for students, faculty and community members. DPS now has eight such school-based fitness centers open to the community.

“Our goal is to get 150 adult members at each site,” said Eric Larson, coordinator of physical education for DPS – and a jumper. So far, about 25 adults have signed up to use the fitness center at North and school officials report 12-15 teen-agers are using it every day after school.

Larson said attendance at the four fitness centers that opened last year is up 500 percent now, and he expects the new centers – at North, West, Kennedy and MLK Jr., Early College high schools – to quickly draw a crowd. The other fitness centers are located at Denver Center for International Studies, Washington and Lincoln high schools, and Bruce Randolph School.

Leading the youngsters in 10 minutes of jumping jacks on Tuesday was Clayton Ellis, who normally teaches physical education at Aurora Central High School. But since that school wasn’t able to participate in the jumping jack challenge, he left his own students in the care of a student teacher and headed to North.

Ellis is a former national high school PE Teacher of the Year, and past president of the Colorado Association for Healthy, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, one of the sponsors of the jumping jack event.

“You’re in the middle of a wave going to the White House! Doesn’t that sound cool?” Ellis asked the roomful of jumpers as she led them through warmups, then several rounds of jumping jacks.

“How many of you know who Jack LaLanne is?” he asked.

Not a single hand attached to a teenage body went up. So Ellis explained that LaLanne was an early proponent of physical fitness, and he shared with them a few LaLanneisms:

“Anything in life is possible if you make it happen.” “Your waistline is your lifeline.” “Better to wear out than rust out.”

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