We sit a lot. Way too much.
I learned this several years ago, sitting in the audience at a conference on health promotion. The presenter was a tall, athletic woman, with great presence and passion. Not two minutes into the presentation, she had more than 500 of us up and dancing to something she called Instant Recess. This was my introduction to Dr. Antronette “Toni” Yancey.
Later during the conference, Dr. Yancey and I talked about intersections in public health, psychology, and sports. We chatted while we watched some March Madness games. Toni and I quickly bonded over our love of college basketball. (She played at Northwestern. And we overlapped for some time at Duke University — I in my undergrad years and she in her medical school residency.)
What I quickly discovered was that Toni was passionate about most everything she talked about — but especially improving health on a population scale. She combined her passion and laser-like focus with her scientific/medical mind, convincing people that there was something we could do about the sedentariness of our population. Then she did it. Through her research, her outreach, her partnership with Michelle Obama (the Let’s Move campaign), Toni led a quest to reverse the trends in obesity and inactivity. She wrote Instant Recess: Building a Fit Nation, 10 Minutes at a Time (2010), in which she urged incorporating regular short bursts of exercise into school, work and community life. After reading her book and talking with her, I knew I had to be on Toni’s team. This is the mark of a good leader, whether in public health or athletics: she makes you feel that you must be on her team. As a former athlete, Toni knew how to put together teams wherever she went. I partnered with her and my own research team to study the impact of these 10-minute exercise breaks in the elementary school classroom.
Click on the image at left for a summary of the study and findings. The research will be presented later this week at the 25th annual convention of the Association for Psychological Science.
Last year, Toni received the scary and unexpected news that she had lung cancer. Unexpected for a public health expert who was young (mid-50s), physically active, and a nonsmoker. Despite valiant efforts on her and her medical team’s part, Toni died last month. On May 7, thousands of people across the nation simultaneously participated in an Instant Recess break in honor of Toni. I put together a short video tribute that day too.
I will always remember the sparkle in Toni’s eyes when she would recite her wonderful poem, Recapturing Recess, then urge the crowd to get off their bottoms — recapturing the feeling we all remember when the recess bell goes off…
The wave of exhilaration
The sigh of relief
The sheer release…
Into linear motion….
Thanks, Toni, for your leadership and inspiration. May we all carry your torch forward and become the active, healthier nation you envisioned.