Schools key tools to fight child obesity
Like many adults, U.S. children and teens have become quite accustomed to sedentary living. Only about half of our youths meet the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation of at least 60 minutes of daily vigorous- or moderate-intensity physical activity. It’s not surprising then, that children and adolescents face growing health risks. None may be more important than the increased risk of obesity, which can compromise their well-being today and throughout their lives.
In a report last spring, the Institute of Medicine examined the status of physical activity and physical education efforts in schools, how physical activity and fitness affect health outcomes, and what could be done to help schools get students to become more active. The report, titled, “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School” further supports the growing evidence of how vigorous and moderate intensity physical activity positively impacts the structure and function of the student brain. Children who are more active show greater attention spans, process thoughts more quickly, and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active. The bottom line is that healthy students learn better.
Schools are good places to encourage children to be active and to provide opportunities to counter obesity. For many years they have cared for the well-being of youth through school nursing services, health screenings, immunizations and nutrition programs. It’s only logical, then, that schools can have a major role in providing active learning opportunities and encouraging children and teens to move more for classroom success and achieve better health now and in the future.
Thomas E. Hohensee
Hohensee is a health promotion/disease prevention specialist for the Bassett Healthcare Network.