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Michelle Obama announces expansion of ‘Let's Move!’ anti-obesity program

Michelle Obama on Thursday announced a five-year expansion of her Let's Move! program that will have her involved in anti-obesity issues long after she leaves the White House.

Let's Move! Active Schools is a public-private partnership to get students 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after school. The first lady is pushing to get 50,000 schools to join the effort over the next five years, and several companies have pledged millions to support the program.

"Our goal is ambitious," she said in a speech at her hometown of Chicago as part of a celebration of Let's Move!'s third anniversary.

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"Fortunately it doesn't take much to get our kids moving," she noted.

Obama has been making a big push for her signature program against childhood obesity, giving several media interviews and embarking on a two-day multi-state tour.

She also wrote an op-ed for Thursday's Wall Street Journal, praising businesses like Wal-Mart for providing healthier food options. She is headed to Springfield, Mo., to visit a Wal-Mart later Thursday, as the last stop on her tour.

In her speech, Obama touted research that shows active kids do better academically and blamed budget cuts for the lack of physical education programs in schools.

"Only one in three of our kids is active every day," she pointed out.

Obama also talked about her time growing up in Chicago and some of her favorite childhood activities.

"I jumped double-dutch — still can actually," she said.

Nike has pledged $50 million over the next five years to Let's Move! Active Schools.

Other groups — including the GENYOUth Foundation, ChildObesity180, Kaiser Permanente and the General Mills Foundation — have pledged $20 million. And the Department of Education will use $80 million from its physical education program to support the effort.

At the Chicago event, Obama was joined by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel; NIKE Inc. President and CEO Mark Parker; tennis player Serena Williams; Olympians Gabby Douglas, Allyson Felix and Dominique Dawes; Bo Jackson; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick; triathlete Sarah Reinertsen, decathlete Ashton Eaton; Paul Rodriguez; and "The Biggest Loser's" Bob Harper.

Several hundred school children were in attendance.

After her speech, Obama changed into workout clothes and joined the athletes for an exercise session with the kids.

When the music started, the first lady ran down into the audience to dance and hug the children.

Obama, without providing specifics, said her second term agenda would focus on children's issues.

“I have a special affinity for kids,” she told the New York Times in an interview. “We love our kids so much and it is very hard not to see our kids in every child we meet. I am powerfully moved by children. I need to have them in my life. They keep me focused, they keep me directed.”

—This story was last updated at 2:43 p.m.