MONTVILLE, NJ - Over ninety-five percent of Valley View Elementary School’s fifth graders voluntarily arrived early on Thursday, Oct. 2. En masse the students filed into the gym in time to launch the 8 a.m. kick-off of the sixth annual “Exercise US” program.

During the program’s ten hours of participation, continuous physical movement, shared by thousands of students in many schools, breaks across the nation’s time zones like a wave of exercise.

“Exercising is important because you can stay fit and healthy,” said Jade Hieger about why she volunteered to come in early and participate in “Exercise US.”

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The fifth grader’s perspective was echoed by the more than fifty students who attended the 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. launch.

Founded by Len Saunders, an award-winning fitness author and Valley View’s Physical Education teacher, “Exercise US” engages students of all skill levels to participate in what Saunders refers to as “A giant relay race of exercise.”

During “Exercise US” students both share the simultaneous experience of exercising with others, while encouraging others to join in.

To participate, schools sign-up for at least one of the 40 fifteen-minute slots that comprise the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (EST) initiative.

“When it’s six o’clock on the East Coast, it’s three o’clock on the West Coast,” Saunders explained. “When these kids complete their fifteen-minutes of exercising, other kids in other schools will be beginning their fifteen minute slots.”

With “Exercise US,” students across the nation make exercising a priority for ten solid hours. The program differs from Saunders’ other acclaimed initiative, “Project ACES” (All Children Exercising Simultaneously), by encouraging a non-stop, simultaneous, ten-hour, exercise event.

“’ACES’ is lots of kids exercising at one time,” noted Saunders. “‘Exercise US’ is lots of kids exercising at one time, followed by lots more kids exercising at one time, all day long.”

“The most exciting part is to know that other schools are exercising at the same time,” said Will Stozenski.

Stozenski and Chiara Lemee were the two Valley View fifth graders chosen to lead the 2014 kick-off for the national event.

To be a leader, students applied by writing essays to describe why exercise is important, and why the writer would make a good exercise leader.

Lemee and Stozenski’s essays stood out because of the enthusiasm with which they wrote and submitted them.

“Will’s essay was to me within an hour of my announcement,” Saunders said. “Chiara’s came the next morning.”

The leaders said they arrived October 2 without a planned routine, but had discussed how to cooperate with each other in order to both share the leadership role, and to seamlessly move from one exercise to the next without hesitating.

“Exercise is important,” Lemee said. “Everyone should exercise.”

“It’s a fun idea,” added Saunders, who has created dozens of exercise programs to encourage children to stay active. “The key to exercise is to try to make it fun.”

The next “Exercise US” is already scheduled for September 30, 2015. Those who would like to register or find out more should visit Participation in “Exercise US” is free, all that is required is a commitment to exercise for at least on fifteen-minute slot.