This weekend, Olympia resident Nat Jackson, the self-proclaimed jump rope king, will attempt to add to his list of accolades.
Jackson set a national jump roping record last year on Steve Harvey’s “Little Big Shots: Forever Young,” completing 90 rotations in 30 seconds – a record for a man 70 years or older – in front of a live audience.
Now Jackson, who just celebrated his 75th birthday, is attempting to set a new record. Using the same USA Jump Rope official that clocked his previous record, Jackson will try to break his mark at a community fundraiser and dinner at the Virgil S. Clarkson Senior Center in Lacey.
The event will kick off Jackson’s upcoming “JUMP 4 LIFE Children’s Fitness Tour,” which will take him to multiple states and feature speaking engagements along the way.
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For Jackson, the inspiration behind his efforts with youth fitness stems partly from his time spent growing up on a cotton plantation in rural Louisiana. At the time, Jackson’s family didn’t own the land they lived on. Instead, they were part of a sharecropping system.
“I was just about as close to a nobody as you could be,” Jackson said.
On the plantation was a woman named Ida B. Ford. On Sundays, after teaching her morning church classes, Ford would come to the Jackson household and hand out lessons to the kids.
As Jackson proudly noted, she was there every Sunday to teach – and not paid a dime for it. Her generosity became the foundation for his commitment to community service.
Years later, a traumatic event occurred that changed how Jackson viewed life. At 19 years old, his older sister died in his arms from severe asthma attack.
Following his sister’s death, Jackson researched disease, studied agriculture, and searched for ways to optimize health.
One of his concerns as he continues to promote good health habits is the life expectancy of today’s youth. CNN reported in December that life expectancy in the United States fell in 2017 for the second consecutive year. It’s the first time that the National Center for Health Statistics recorded a multiyear drop since 1962-63.
“Research shows that this generation of children are on track to be the first generation of Americans to live shorter lives than their parents,” Jackson’s website reads.
“Sadly, if this trend continues, it means that today’s children will be sick sooner, longer, more often and more severely than their parents.”
Jackson believes the current generation is not well-educated about nutrition or fitness. He believes that simply five minutes of jump rope a day could significantly better the health of youth. And that will be part of his tour’s message.
“I know when you make an effort, and you believe in your heart that you can make a difference and set out motivating every cell in your body to make that difference, you’ll make a difference.” Jackson said, smiling. “And that’s what I’m doing.”
Watch Nat jump
When: 4-6 p.m. Saturday, July 28
Where: Virgil S. Clarkson Senior Center, 6757 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey
Tickets: $45 for adults; $15 for children. Money will cover Jackson’s Jump4LIfe Children’s Fitness Tour of schools.
Information: jumpropeking.com/jump4life; firstname.lastname@example.org; 360-888-7004