Ten minutes a day. That is all it would take to change the American education system and save the country billions of dollars a year, according to fitness guru Robert Sweetgall.
"If teachers would just have their students walk 10 minutes a day before class, it would change so many things. The simplest thing we could do in this country is to add a little more physical activity," Sweetgall told a group at Southern Adventist University in Collegedale.
The 65-year-old knows a thing or two about physical activity.
Thirty-one years ago, he was an overweight chemical engineer at Dupont and a junk food fanatic. His nickname was "Butterball" when he was growing up in Brooklyn.
But then Sweetgall watched his father and uncle die from heart disease.
"I decided to have a career change," Sweetgall said.
So Sweetgall quit his job and began walking. He walked across American seven times, wearing a four-pound fanny pack and walking 30 to 50 miles a day. He went through 25 pairs of shoes, even resoling them three times to keep them as long as possible.
He powdered his feet with cornstarch and slit the sides of his shoes to allow air to enter. Sweetgall jokes he was a "serious pedestrian."
He also ran in marathons and ultra marathons.
Decades later, Sweetgall shares his passion for wellness to groups all across the county.
At a lunchtime talk at Southern, Sweetgall began his presentation by tossing bright-colored Frisbees into the audience. He then had the audience balance them on their heads and spin around.
Exercise and fitness isn't about hardcore athletics, he said. Do things you enjoy, find exercise that doesn't hurt your body and you can do the rest of your life.
Park in the far side of Walmart and walk to the store. Play with your kids. Take the stairs. Use Nordic walking poles, which exercise more of the body than just walking.
"You gotta be in this for life," he said.
Research shows walking three to five miles a day is the optimal level of exercise. But just going from no exercise to one mile a day brings a huge payoff in better health and longer life expectancy, Sweetgall said.
"Don't promote perfect; we've got to get everyone to first base," he said. "This is a journey we take one step at a time.
Southern University biology professor Valerie Lee attended Sweetgall's talk. She said she plans to have her biology students walk 10 minutes a day when she gets back to the classroom.
"It's not about getting in perfect shape, its about doing some activity," she said.