The National Football League (NFL) PLAY 60 programming significantly improved both aerobic
capacity and body mass index among a large percentage of the
approximately 100,000 students who participated in the program between
2011 and 2015, revealed a new study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.
The NFL foundation has invested heavily in
its NFL PLAY 60 initiative to promote fitness and health among youth
over the past decade. Its impact on childhood fitness and obesity
levels, however, has lacked scientific evaluation - until now.
‘Schools that implemented the National Football League (NFL) fitness programs had better health and fitness profiles than schools that chose not to implement them or only did so, partially.’
The study, funded by the NFL, was conducted by The Cooper
Institute and led by lead author Yang Bai, assistant professor in
rehabilitation and movement sciences at the University of Vermont.
The study focused on 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.
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 four years tended to have greater
fitness improvements compared to schools that participated for just two
or three years. Approximately 500 schools were involved in the study at
"Our research shows that NFL PLAY 60 programs actually work in
reality based on data collected over the past four-to-five years," says
Bai, adding that the NFL plans to provide additional funding for five
schools in each of the its 32 host cities that agree to fully implement
"It's rare to see such a large-scale program involving
around 1,000 schools over multiple years. 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. The program cannot
be sustained over time without those motivated and hardworking teachers.
We are eager to see how this additional funding and support might help
local teachers and their students."
The Fuel Up program focuses on how students can fuel up properly by
eating healthy, local, nutritious foods. The PLAY 60 Challenge is
focused more on how to get 60 minutes of activity every day including
interactive games, dancing, running, biking and other activities. Most
of the programs offer a variety of options and are easy to modify by
local schools and communities.
The NFL PLAY 60 FitnessGram Partnership Project was used to evaluate
student progress as recorded by teachers at participating schools who
received training on how to use of the FitnessGram program by staff from
The Cooper Institute, a non-profit agency that coordinated the study,
and study author Greg Welk, professor at Iowa State University and
Scientific Director of FitnessGram. Teachers were trained to assess
their student's fitness each year and to enter it through the web-based
Launched in 2007, NFL PLAY 60 was designed to increase the wellness
of young fans, including the 33 million children who are obese or
overweight by encouraging them to be active for at least 60 minutes a
day. NFL stars such as Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Tony Romo
of the Dallas Cowboys and Reggie Bush of the Buffalo Bills have promoted
the program that is prominently publicized during the NFL's Super Bowl,
Pro Bowl, draft, season kickoff and Thanksgiving.