The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Hosts Experts on Exercise, Student Performance and Brain Development

$130,000 Foundation Grant Supports Fitness Testing of GA Students

ATLANTA, Sept. 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Speaker Series will host an expert panel on Thursday, September 23, 2010, to share new research findings on the connection between physical fitness, student performance and brain development.

Featuring Dr. John Ratey, author of SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, and Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who founded The Cooper Institute and launched the U.S. fitness movement with his 1968 book Aerobics, the event is part of the Foundation's ongoing work to reduce childhood obesity.

"Getting kids and families off the sofa and moving not only improves their health, it ignites brain development," said Penelope McPhee, president of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. "Helping Georgia students to reach peak performance depends on brainpower. Exercise is as good for the brain as it is for the body."

Governor Sonny Perdue and Arthur Blank, chairman of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, are scheduled to deliver remarks at the event.

The Speaker Series event is by invitation only, and reservations are required. The program will be available for general audience viewing via live webcast, which is being produced in partnership with NFL PLAY 60, from 5:45-7:30 p.m. EDT. No registration is needed to view the webcast. For information on the webcast go to

Cooper is the creative force behind a widely-used fitness assessment called FITNESSGRAM, which Georgia has adopted to track the fitness levels of students statewide. The fitness testing is one component of the SHAPE Act, which Governor Perdue signed into law last year to strengthen Georgia's commitment to youth fitness. During the school day on September 23, Governor Perdue will host an event at a Gwinnett County elementary school marking the launch of the SHAPE Act pilot program.

FITNESSGRAM assesses fitness through tests of muscle strength, flexibility and endurance. Students scoring in the test's "Healthy Fitness Zone" meet the optimal standard for fitness. Cooper's research reveals that fit students are more likely to have good attendance, perform better on tests and are less likely to have disciplinary referrals.

This fall five school districts in Georgia are rolling out FITNESSGRAM as part of the SHAPE Act's launch. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation is providing $130,000 in grant support to the Georgia Children's Health Alliance to help schools in these districts pilot the program.
The National Football League's PLAY 60 initiative is also supporting FITNESSGRAM as part of its campaign to encourage children to spend at least 60 minutes a day in physical activity. A grant from NFL Charities is helping more than 1,100 schools in Atlanta and other NFL communities acquire FITNESSGRAM free of charge.

A clinical associate professor at Harvard Medical School, Ratey is a leader in the movement to transform schools in order to reverse the nation's obesity crisis and move Americans from sedentary to active lifestyles. Since 1998 Dr. Ratey has been selected each year by his peers as one of the best doctors in America.

In SPARK, Ratey translates findings from neuroscience research to explain how exercise, through biological and chemical processes, generates new brain cells and strengthens old ones. As the single most powerful tool available to optimize brain function, exercise also diminishes the effects of aging.

Several organizations are joining the Foundation's September Speaker Series event to promote physical fitness. Partner organizations include the Office of Governor Sonny Perdue, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Children's Health Alliance, NFL PLAY 60, the Georgia Department of Education, Multicast Media, Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta, The First Tee, After-School All-Stars, the Atlanta Falcons Physical Therapy Centers, Metro Atlanta YMCA, Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, HealthMPowers, Georgia PTA, PGA TOUR Superstores, Atlanta Track Club, Georgia Organics, GoGirlGo!, and the Atlanta Taskforce on Play.

About The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation Speaker Series:
By convening individuals around issues, innovations and ideas that will shape the quality of life for families in Atlanta and beyond, the Blank Family Foundation aspires to spur civic action and citizen involvement for positive change in people's lives. Visit the Foundation's web site for more information on the Speaker Series, ( In addition to its direct grant making, the Family Foundation supports the work of The Atlanta Falcons Youth Foundation, which since 2005 has invested more than $16 million to reduce childhood obesity in Georgia.

SOURCE The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
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