A participant in the NFL's PLAY 60 program prepares to take off at the start of a running event. (Photo courtesy of The Cooper Institute)

A participant in the NFL’s PLAY 60 program listens for the start of a running event. (Photo courtesy of The Cooper Institute)


The NFL PLAY 60 initiative, an effort by the National Football League (NFL) to help promote fitness and health among young people, has had an impact on the participants’ aerobic capacity and BMI, a recent study suggests.

Launched in 2007, the aim of NFL PLAY 60 is to encourage young people to be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day.

A study, which appears in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, concludes that the NFL PLAY 60 program significantly improved both aerobic capacity and body mass index among a large percentage of the approximately 100,000 students from approximately 500 schools who participated in the program between 2011 and 2015, states a media release from the University of Vermont.

The NFL-funded study, conducted by The Cooper Institute, investigated the impact of the two most popular NFL PLAY 60 programs: Fuel Up to PLAY 60, coordinated by the National Dairy Council; and NFL PLAY 60 Challenge, developed with the American Heart Association. The Fuel Up program focused on how students can fuel up properly by eating healthy foods, and the PLAY 60 Challenge focused on how to participate in 60 minutes of activity every day.

Among the 95 programming schools, researchers found larger gains in the percentage of youth that achieved national health standards for aerobic fitness between 2012 and 2015. The percentage of youth classified as overweight or obese also declined during the same time period.

Overall, schools that implemented the programs had better health and fitness profiles than schools that chose not choose to implement them or only did so partially. Students from the schools that did not implement the programs remained at almost the same level of aerobic capacity and weight status. The study also showed that schools that implemented the programming for 4 years tended to have greater fitness improvements compared to schools that participated for just 2 or 3 years, the release continues.

“Our research shows that NFL PLAY 60 programs actually work in reality based on data collected over the past 4 to 5 years,” says the study’s lead author Yang Bai, assistant professor in rehabilitation and movement sciences at the University of Vermont, in the release.

“It’s different from conventional intervention programs in that teachers and staff along with parents and community members are the key players in promoting healthy eating and a physically active environment for kids,” adds Bai, who notes that the NFL plans to provide additional funding for five schools in each of the its 32 host cities that agree to fully implement the program.

[Source(s): University of Vermont, EurekAlert]