Challenge is simple: set a goal of 123 minutes of activity a week

Published in the May 11-25, 2016 issue of Morgan Hill Life

By Steve Betando

Steve Betando

Steve Betando

As an educator, superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District and a parent, I am very passionate about the education of our children and future leaders. Every day we are working tirelessly to mold, grow and nurture their young minds. But what about their physical well-being? Doesn’t a healthy body support a healthy mind?

In the past decade, there has been a wealth of information coming out of leading national education organizations that recognize the relationship between the physical health of students and their academic success. Healthy students turn out to be better learners.

The Superintendent’s Health Challenge, Easy as 1-2-3 is a way for our students, parents, teachers, staff and community members to start thinking about how important physical activity is to our cognitive well-being. We must be models for our children and also give our friends and family the gift of being healthy ourselves.

The challenge itself is simple: set a goal of achieving 123 minutes of activity a week and see how it makes you feel. If you want a bigger challenge, cut out sugary and sugar substitute drinks and sodas for a week. Need an even bigger challenge? Set your goal of 321 minutes of activity a week. That’s it.

My thought behind this initiative is to get people moving. It doesn’t matter what kind of shape you are in now, or what you ate for lunch today, or the last time you used your gym membership. It’s about starting today with a new weekly goal and trying to achieve it.

My initial idea was to use this as a tool to engage students and staff in more weekly activity to help them clear their heads, regenerate and help students stay focused in class. At the beginning of the year, Morgan Hill Mayor Steve Tate asked for a project that he could take to Specialized Bicycle Components as a partnership opportunity. The Superintendent’s Health Challenge seemed like the perfect match. Specialized, whose business is built on physical activity, wanted to be more involved in our community and support our schools. Specialized is helping us make this community project a reality. After meeting with two of Specialized’s very talented and ambitious team members, and listening to their excitement about this idea, we knew we were on to something great.

With the help of Specialized, we began to imagine reaching a wider audience. Why should we just focus on students and staff when we have a great community around us that might also benefit? From research, we know that the familial, social, physical and economic environment in which youth live is strongly associated with academic achievement and educational attainment. Healthy students are better learners, healthy employees are more productive and happier, and healthy families make our community stronger.

We have created a health tracking website,, to help participants track their goals, keep records of how they do, and allow them the opportunity to create groups and teams, accept additional challenges, and qualify for great prizes. This challenge isn’t about weight loss, or revamping your New Year’s resolution. It’s all about being more active and increasing our cognitive ability and helping our students increase theirs.

Specialized has helped raise funds for this initiative and gave us a platform at their Spring Bike Classic event April 24 to launch our idea. With their help, we are looking to take a coordinated approach to this challenge, get more businesses involved who play different roles in helping us achieve our goals. Champions at our school sites, champions in our community, everyone playing different roles but forming a team, we’re working toward a common set of priority goals: namely improving students’ and adults’ motivation and ability to learn.

Steve Betando is the superintendent of the Morgan Hill Unified School District. He wrote this guest column for Morgan Hill Life.