Getting Kids Up and Moving at School
Fewer and fewer students are able to bike or walk to school each day, and afterschool programs focus more on academics than on exercise. These are two missed opportunities for physical activity for our schoolchildren. A non-profit organization formed specifically to address the epidemic of childhood obesity, Action for Healthy Kids, reported that 75 percent of kids get less than 20 minutes of vigorous exercise per day (Action for Healthy Kids, 2004).
“Not only is exercise vitally important, but teaching students why they should exercise is also important,” says Gary Sharpe, a former PE and math teacher, former school administrator and state legislator, and who now heads the Missouri Association of School Administrators. “We need to teach the physiology of exercise, and we need to have kids understand why it’s important, not just impose periods of activity,” says Sharpe. “This will help them build the mindset and habits to stay with them through adulthood.”
Audrey Satterblom, a health and physical education teacher in the Indianapolis Public Schools, agrees. “Helping students learn how and why they should be active throughout their lives is as critical an issue as providing physical education classes and healthy food choices.”
A recent report on childhood obesity released by the Government Accountability Office identified “increasing physical activity” as the first priority to combat the epidemic. Program officials identified multiple challenges in implementing key strategies, including a lack of or inconsistent physical education requirements by school districts, and infrastructure concerns, like the need for sidewalks. Other strategies to increase physical activity, according to the experts cited in the GAO report, were for incentives to encourage activity during recess or at other times throughout the day, or pedometers to older children to encourage walking. Proper policies must be implemented in districts in order to support health education and skills-based learning, which are important steps to lifelong behavior change.
Reprinted with the permission of the American Association of School Administrators. © AASA
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