CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - Students and teachers in Tennessee’s K-5 schools now have access to a simple and effective program intended to help combat childhood obesity by teaching the benefits of physical activity at an early age. BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools, a voluntary in-school walking program, will roll out to all public and private K-5 Tennessee schools this fall. Registrations for the 2006-2007 school year will be accepted until May 31 via the program’s Web site.

BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools, sponsored by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, is aimed at improving children’s health by encouraging physical activity during the school day with a simple activity -walking. About 50,000 students in 121 Tennessee schools are currently participating in a pilot this spring. The program was first launched as a pilot program during the fall of 2005.

"We have had so much positive feedback from our pilot participants that the next logical step is to make this program available to any Tennessee school," said Vicky Gregg, president and CEO of BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. "As BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools expands statewide, we hope that children who learn about the benefits of physical activity at an early age will reap the numerous rewards associated with exercise and healthy lifestyles for the rest of their lives."

BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools incorporates walking into the classroom and teaches children in grades K-5 the benefits of proper exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. Although students are the focus of the effort, principals, faculty, staff and parents can also benefit and are strongly encouraged to participate by walking with a class. The program was developed by BlueCross and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Participating classrooms commit to walking at least five minutes a day, equal to walking one lap around a track or a quarter mile, over a 12-week period during both semesters. Teachers are provided with an easy-to-use tracking poster that allows classrooms to record their progress. Students receive a WalkingWorks wristband, which serves as a reminder to be active and make healthy choices. Teachers, students and parents can log on to the BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools Web site, full of nutritional and exercise resources. At the end of the program, students and teachers are awarded a certificate signed by Governor Phil Bredesen.

Schools that sign up for the 2006-2007 school year will be enrolled for the entire year. The program does require a coordinator to handle administration of the program, to oversee one or several schools’ participation. Coordinators receive all the program materials, updates and reminders to share with teachers. At the end of each semester, they are responsible for reporting the number of minutes each classroom walked by completing a simple online form.

For more information on BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools visit www.WalkingWorksForSchoolsTN.com.

About BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools was developed by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Department of Health and the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools was created to address the growing trend of decreased physical activity in the lives of our young people by teaching children in grades K-5 the benefits of proper exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle.