Wide receiver Chansi Stuckey and running back Leon Washington spent part of this Tuesday giving a hula hoop demonstration in front of hundreds of people. The people were mostly third-through-fifth-grade kids and the hula hoops were weighted — the kind used for exercise.
The New York Jets helped kick off the opening of Project Fit America, a physical fitness curriculum designed to motivate students to keep in shape. Washington and Stuckey appeared at Central Elementary School in East Hanover, one of three schools in northern New Jersey to receive the program this year.
Before demonstrations for the new physical fitness equipment were given, Washington and Stuckey shared some simple but good physical fitness tips with the children.
The opportunity to come speak to these children, Washington told them, was, "Something that's real important to me."
"When I was a young kid, your guys' age, I loved exercising. I would get up at 6 o'clock in the morning, go to school early. School didn't start until 8. I'd get up at 6 and go play basketball, go play football, play in the playground before school even started.
"For me, it's important to be fit, because the more fit you are the more fun you're able to have," he said. "So if you're at home, playing video games and eating french fries and hamburgers all the time, you're lethargic. You don't want to work out, you don't want to do anything, so you don't have fun"
Maintaining a healthy diet is a challenge for most adults, let alone children, so Washington offered a suggestion to help the kids cope with eating right.
"Allow yourself one day a week where you can eat junk food," he said. "The rest of the six days try to eat healthy."
Stuckey's words to the kids emphasized an often-overlooked fundamental of overall fitness.
"The biggest meal you want to eat is breakfast," he said. "Without breakfast you would probably be sleepy right now. Just like Leon said — lethargic, you don't want to play. You'd probably play for 10 minutes and then go in the house and be tired all day."
The second-year wide receiver also emphasized that while it's important to eat right, eating often isn't necessarily a bad thing.
"We eat before the game, during the game and after the game, just so we can play the four quarters," Stuckey said. "If we don't eat right, we can only play the first half. Then everybody's wondering what happened to us in the second half, we're losing by 30 points.
"You've just got to eat right, stay healthy and stay on the move."
The students took over the show shortly thereafter, demonstrating proper technique for the new equipment in their playground — but not before Washington and Stuckey joined them in the hula hoop demonstration.
Regarding their "hoop" skills, school principal Melissa Falcone said, "I think they did a great job, but I think our students did an even better job.
"I think that kids today are more inclined to go on the computer, play PSP and do things such as that," she said. "So here at school we want to encourage them to get outside. We want to promote physical fitness, and of course, nutritional eating."
Ken Stahl, Central Elementary's physical education instructor, pointed out the impact of encouragement from the players.
"We were having a conversation with our fifth-graders and they said what an opportunity it was for them," said Stahl. "A lot of them are aspiring professional athletes. For professional athletes to come to their school and give them their advice on when they were young and the tools they used to help them get fit and get to where they are today, I think it's a great opportunity."
"I think it's extremely important to talk to kids," said Stuckey "It's one thing hearing it from an adult, a teacher or a faculty member and it's another thing hearing it from an athlete, a role model or someone who kids look up to. I think it just makes a big difference who you hear things from."
Since its inception in 1990, PFA has raised more than $7.5 million and established programs in more than 650 schools in more than 300 cities and 40 states. This year's Project Fit America program received financial support from Morristown Memorial Hospital and the Morristown Memorial Community Health Committee.