Program Boosts PE Classes

June 1, 2018

This year, UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind (SBSM) celebrates 20 years of helping students achieve a healthy and balanced lifestyle throughout 127 schools in the Los Angeles area. During the 2017-18 school year, more than 150,000 students were impacted.

UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind combats childhood obesity by outfitting underserved physical education classrooms with a comprehensive and state-of-the-art fitness program, an innovative curriculum and professional development for teachers.

California schools implement a standardized physical fitness test (FitnessGram) within their P.E. program in grades five, seven and nine. Last year, UCLA Health SBSM installed fitness centers in 12 Los Angeles schools. Of those schools, only 37.8 percent of participating students passed the mandated fitness test.

After eight weeks of using the SBSM curriculum and accompanying fitness equipment, more than 57.3 percent of participating students passed, exceeding the Los Angeles Unified School District middle and high school combined average of 44.8 percent.

Earthquake Damaged School Gets New Fitness Center

John F. Kennedy High School in Granada Hills, Calif., was among those schools generating a pass-rate increase of 39 percent on the post-curriculum test. Built in 1971, JFK High endured the 1994 Northridge earthquake and reconstruction was limited to the academics and administration buildings. While the gymnasium was eventually rebuilt in 2001, the grass field and dirt track left little room for innovation and creativity in physical education.

The harsh heat of the San Fernando Valley often forces teachers to take their efforts indoors, though the lack of aerobic and cardiovascular indoor equipment has left teachers feeling depleted. In addition, like many of the schools SBSM partners with, JFK High had a P.E. budget of under $500. Most schools have no budget at all.

UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind understood this problem and in 2017, it awarded JFK High School with a $50,000 grant to overhaul their existing physical education program. The grant included commercial-grade cardiovascular equipment such as spin bikes and rowing machines, strength training equipment and mobile equipment, such as jump ropes and agility ladders.

A Curriculum Designed with Schools in Mind

Sound Body Sound Mind’s unique curriculum uses 30 lesson plans devoted to basic physical tasks, designed for small spaces, since many inner-city schools lack large multipurpose gymnasiums or suitable campus green spaces. The program encourages participation by focusing on quick, team-oriented tasks, and boosting stamina and confidence.  

“I’ve noticed that physical education doesn’t motivate students to participate or is often an uncomfortable environment that exposes our insecurities,” said JFK High School student Rembert Velasquez. “With the help of UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind, physical education has created an accessible and fun way of becoming active.”

The results from the program’s 2016-17 FitnessGram data not only highlighted increases in performance, but also explored engagement in healthy habits and how students viewed their self-image. After the eight-week program, students reported an increase in how they felt physically, how they felt about their bodies and in their ability to engage in healthy behaviors.

The program’s updated student behavioral survey was one of the many initiatives UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind is working on in an effort to improve the program and expand its impact. Other initiatives provided by SBSM include maintenance and technology grants. Both opportunities provide up to $5,000 in either refurbishing existing UCLA Health SBSM schools with updated equipment, or implementing various technologies into the program. Schools with equipment more than five years old may apply for the maintenance grant.

Collectively, UCLA Health Sound Body Sound Mind has impacted more than 750,000 students.

“We firmly believe that physical education and physical activity are some of the strongest tools to improve the lives and futures of our youth,” said SBSM executive director Matthew Flesock. “Everything is positively impacted by fitness, including academic performance, mental health and social-emotional wellness.”

The Future of Sound Body Sound Mind

Since launching in 1998, Sound Body Sound Mind founders Cindy and Bill Simon have left a lasting imprint on the way students feel about themselves, about their bodies, and how incorporating fitness affects their minds. By approaching childhood obesity within the classroom, students learn the value of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and positive outlook for years to come.

The partnership with UCLA Health, which began in 2015, serves as the backbone of what Sound Body Sound Mind stands for--making strides in physical fitness, expanding the mind, and promoting self-confidence. Sound Body Sound Mind is the largest community engagement program within the UCLA Health system.

Sound Body Sound Mind is currently focused on installing new centers in Southern California schools. However, the program is replicable anywhere in the U.S. Implementing the program at a new school typically costs between $40,000 and $50,000; the program works with donors and local foundations to help schools cover those costs.

For more information, visit or call 310-500-4285.


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