By Rehema Ellis Correspondent
NBC News
updated 1/11/2005 7:36:58 PM ET 2005-01-12T00:36:58

We all know Americans are getting heavier, but it's not just adults. More and more of our kids are also dangerously overweight.

That's why some schools are re-designing their physical education programs. In some gym classes the old-school approach to getting fit is out, making way for a new focus on individual health.

These are not your parents' gym classes, and that's the whole point. Hoping to encourage inactive and overweight kids to get off the couch, some schools like one in Wisconsin, are trying to show kids that physical education can be fun for everyone.

The new approach is the brainchild of teacher Crystal Gorwitz, a physical education teacher at Hortonville Middle School.

She had grown concerned about studies showing that 30 percent of American children are overweight and 15 percent are obese. Gorwitz had a solution in mind, but money was tight.

“Physical education is being cut around the country and kids are sitting at their desks more and more and more,” she says.

Her budget of only $1,000 a year for 500 students was nowhere near enough to finance the enormous changes she wanted to make. So, she went after and received a $233,000 federal grant to revamp her school's program to include interactive dance video, exercise balls and even a climbing wall.

“There's a lot of fun things in here, so I think it makes me more active,” says 11-year-old, sixth-grader Logan Bleck.

In Connecticut, University of Connecticut professor Jaci Van Heest has developed a before-school program for overweight kids where there are no winners and losers. Kids just play.

“If we change physical education to have both fun and games as well as to teach lifelong activity, it will be one part of the solution,” says Van Heest.

It's working for 9-year-old Jacqlyn David, who now enjoys what she used to dread.

“I think of a game being fun, not being something where I don't want to let my team down,” says David.

Not wanting to let her students down, Gorwitz will soon be rolling out more things for them to do, such as inline skating and even snowshoeing.

She’s just one teacher trying to solve a weighty problem by getting kids back into play.

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