Governor Pat Quinn today signed a new law to enhance physical education in Illinois schools. In addition, the governor continued to urge Illinois residents to take the "Walk Across Illinois Challenge" (walkacrossillinois.org), a program the governor launched to improve the health and fitness of the people of Illinois. Governor Quinn led a group of walkers on a half-mile trek through Oak Park.
"Today we want to encourage people to be fit, be healthy and walk across Illinois," Governor Quinn said. "This new law is another step in the right direction to help the citizens of Illinois improve their health and wellness."
Senate Bill 3374, sponsored by Sen. Linda Holmes (D-Plainfield) and Rep. Jerry Mitchell (R-Rock Falls), creates the Enhance Physical Education Task Force to examine existing physical education strategies and programs, assess the impact of physical education, and identify and leverage local, state and federal resources for physical education. An initiative of the Illinois Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, the bill was supported by major teachers' and school organizations, American Heart Association, American Stroke Association and other health advocates. The law is effective immediately.
"This law helps us take a serious look at the positive impact PE has on students. It benefits them both physically and mentally. Studies show that physical activity increases the ability to concentrate and improves cognitive function. There is a connection between a healthy body and a healthy mind," said Sen. Holmes (D-Plainfield).
"As a former coach and physical education teacher, I know first-hand the value of physical fitness," said Rep. Mitchell (R-Rock Falls). "This Task Force will help put Illinois schoolchildren on the right path."
The new Task Force will collaborate with the Governor's Council on Health and Physical Fitness, which was created in January to develop practical ideas to help Illinois residents embrace healthier lifestyles. The Council is chaired by Sandy Noel, a Golden Apple Award-winning teacher and fitness instructor.
"With initiatives such as "Walk Across Illinois', Governor Quinn's Council on Health and Physical Fitness and the new Enhanced Physical Education Task Force, we are affirming the importance of teaching physical education and health in our schools, and living what we learn," said Sandy Noel, the Oak Park teacher who co-chairs the Governor's Council on Health and Physical Fitness. "Summer is drawing to a close. Walk outside and let's get fit together!"
Originally launched by Quinn when he was Lieutenant Governor, "Walk Across Illinois" is an interactive program which encourages participants to walk 167 miles in a single year, roughly the distance across Illinois from Rock Island on the Mississippi River to Chicago on Lake Michigan. Ten years ago, Quinn -- joined by his 78-year old physician, Dr. Quentin Young - walked that 167-mile-route to promote the Bernardin Amendment which called for decent health care for everyone.
Residents wishing to take the "Walk Across Illinois Challenge" may visit walkacrossillinois.org, where they can register, log their mileage, learn about hiking routes and get helpful tips. A chart enables you to convert other activities to mileage, such as 30 minutes of bowling or 20 minutes of lawn-mowing being equivalent to one mile.
Once a walker has reached 167 miles, he or she receives a certificate from the governor. Illinois has approximately 270 hiking trails, 63 miles of walkable Lake Michigan shoreline, thousands of miles of riverfront paths and countless neighborhood walks.