Jake Steinfeld's 'Don't Quit!' Fitness Campaign makes waves in New York


Growing up in Baldwin, Jake Steinfeld, a 1976 Baldwin High School graduate, considered himself overweight and struggled with a bad stutter. But his life took a major turn when he was 13, and his father bought him his first set of weights.

Since 2012, Steinfeld, chairman of the National Foundation for Governors’ Fitness Councils, has been changing the lives of American schoolchildren with his Don’t Quit! fitness campaign, and has given selected elementary and middle schools across the country $100,000 Don’t Quit! Fitness Centers. This year he will do so for three schools in New York State.

Steinfeld, who gained recognition as the chairman and CEO of Body by Jake, has developed brands and businesses within and outside the fitness industry, and created two fitness channels, FitTV and ExerciseTV. He co-founded Major League Lacrosse, and has served as a personal trainer for the likes of Harrison Ford and Steven Spielberg.

Steinfeld served as chairman for then California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports during his tenure in 2006, continuing his role into then Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration until 2011. Steinfeld began contemplating building fitness centers in all 50 states.

“I had this idea that I wanted to put fitness centers in elementary or middle schools around the country,” he said in a phone interview with the Herald. “The simple reason for this is if you give the schools the tools, it’s amazing to see what happens, and I believe that if you put a fitness center in a school, it becomes the hub of a community.”

A decade later, Steinfeld had solicited funding for fitness centers in 46 states, with only Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada and New York remaining to fulfill his goal.

“In 2024, we are fulfilling our mission of putting fitness centers in every state of this great nation of ours, including my home state of New York,” he said in a news release. “For the last 40 years, I’ve led the charge regarding the importance of physical activity as a way to combat childhood obesity. Not only are we seeing increased academic scores, but we are also seeing confidence and self-esteem skyrocket.”

The fitness centers are financed through public-private partnerships with companies like Coca-Cola, Elevance Health and Nike, and schools apply to the fitness councils foundation. Each center is suitable for young people as well as adults, and designed for total body fitness, equipped with body weight training equipment and cardio machines.

To qualify, a school must be a public or charter school, with students between ages 9 and 14, and have 900 to 2,000 square feet of available room. Along with the application, school officials and students must submit a video illustrating the community’s culture, challenges and successes.

The deadline for a school in New York to apply for a fitness center is April 5. Winners will be announced in May.

This year, Steinfeld is collaborating with his friend Gary Bettman, the commissioner of the National Hockey League, to add some high-profile heft to his mission of “coming home” to New York.

“Jake has always been an industry leader in the fitness world for decades, and his DON’T QUIT! Campaign is a wonderful endeavor that the NHL is happy to participate in,” Bettman said in a news release. “Promoting exercise and healthy living is paramount, but to step up and actually provide the physical fitness centers in these communities for our young people, who might not have the opportunity, is truly a reflection of Jake’s generosity.”

After collaborating with governors across the country, New York was the first state where Steinfeld encountered some difficulty, finding it challenging to reach Gov. Kathy Hochul. Despite that, Steinfeld said the response from New York schools has been “sensational” since Bettman got involved instead.

“This is all about kids,” he said. “We’re already getting so many applications from the state of New York. This is my mission, and we don’t quit, and it’s turning out to be so much fun.”