In February, American Heart Month, 475 schools representing more than 190,000 students in Indiana will spotlight the importance of students’ mental and physical health through the American Heart Association’s school-based programs Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge.

Throughout the month, schools will work with students in a variety of ways to activate different elements of the over 40-year-old program created by the American Heart Association, a global force for healthier lives for all. Rooted in proven science, the program helps students improve their mental and physical health with a robust suite of content including STEM curriculum, social emotional learning and instruction of lifesaving skills such as Hands-Only CPR™.

“As we know, the early years play a vital role in the development of health-related behaviors. Placing emphasis on establishing healthy environments and behaviors can help students understand the importance of wellness,” said Dr. Shawn A. Smith, superintendent of schools for the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township. “Giving health a specific moment in time, especially in light of the pandemic, is an important way for our school to support our students.”

With deep roots in physical activity, Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge have expanded beyond the gym to meet the needs of today’s youth and educators as science has proven the strong connection between physical and mental health.

Kids Heart Challenge offers a variety of physical activities to get elementary students’ hearts pumping such as dance, basketball or jumping rope paired with digital missions to learn life-saving skills like Hands-Only CPR™. The American Heart Challenge is a service-learning program for middle and high school students. The program also helps boost heart health and self-esteem, while reducing stress and anxiety through programs featuring yoga, dance and obstacle courses. Both programs’ curriculums help prepare kids for success by supporting physical and emotional well-being.

“We know that mental health concern or issues such as stress and anxiety can impact physical health. We also know that physical activity can help students improve their grades, school attendance and classroom behavior,” says Dr. Sandeep Dube, a cardiologist who is president of the AHA’s Indianapolis board of directors. “Pairing both mental and physical wellness with in-school education and enrichment works to holistically support the long-term health of the whole child.”

Funds raised by Kids Heart Challenge and American Heart Challenge participants support the American Heart Association’s scientific research and outreach programs, while creating healthier communities.

Schools interested in participating in either Kids Heart Challenge or American Heart Challenge can still register for the current school year and receive expanded curriculum resources for both classrooms and in-home learning environments. To learn more about other school programs please visit