100K fitness space in St. Paul school aims to lift achievement, esteem

Governor Walz opens exercise center at school
Gov. Tim Walz and fitness specialist Jake Steinfeld watch as sixth grader Markiah Wright uses a new stationary bike in the new E-STEM Middle School fitness center. The St. Paul school won a $100,000 fitness grant from Steinfeld's National Foundation for Governors' Fitness Councils.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

Some Minnesota 11 and 12-year-olds started their school week Monday doing crunches, lifting weights and pedaling on cardio bikes in front of the governor, a noted fitness guru and TV cameras.

The workout was a way to show off a gym full of new equipment that was donated to the E-STEM Middle School through the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Council program. The school is a science, technology and math academy that is part of the St. Paul School District, but physically located in Woodbury.

Gov. Tim Walz and fitness specialist Jake Steinfeld helped dedicate the workout room. Steinfeld, known through his “Body by Jake” enterprise, told an E-STEM rally that academics and fitness go hand-in-hand.

“This upward spiral of success when you’re exercising — better on your tests, right? You’re healthier. You’re stronger. You’re less likely to smoke cigarettes. You’re less likely to take drugs. You’re less likely to join a gang,” Steinfeld said. “Because you’re in control of you.”

Two schools in Breckenridge and Coleraine also got outfitted. About 90 Minnesota schools applied, with each submitting a video of how they’re working to keep their students active. The Don’t Quit! fitness program is now active in 31 states.

Corporations and other foundations have contributed toward the equipment.

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After cutting a giant red ribbon at the door to the room, Walz and Steinfeld moved around as kids tried out the equipment. The governor coached one boy on how to do a leg-lift exercise to strengthen abs. He also gave a pep talk to 11-year-old Markiah Wright, who was on a stationary bike.

“Holy cow, you’re really good at this,” Walz told her.

Wright, who is in sixth grade, said she’s already tested out the equipment she’ll get to use a couple of times per week during school hours.

“I love the fitness center because I actually get to work out and stay in shape more,” she said. “I notice results. I notice the other day my abs were hurting because I was working out.”