Wednesday, June 3, 2009


SEATTLE– The Washington, D.C., metro area is the fittest of America’s 50 most populous metropolitan areas according to the American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) American Fitness Index™ (AFI). ACSM unveiled the 2009 rankings and released the AFI data report, “Health and Community Fitness Status of the 50 Largest Metropolitan Areas,“ during the organization’s Annual Meeting in Seattle. The report, produced in partnership with the WellPoint Foundation, is a snapshot of the state of health and fitness in America’s most populous metropolitan areas.

The AFI data report reflects a composite of preventive health behaviors, levels of chronic disease conditions, health care access, as well as community resources and policies that support physical activity. In addition to a data report, AFI is a program designed to help communities identify opportunities to improve the health of their residents and expand community assets to better support active, healthy lifestyles.

“ACSM believes that researching and understanding the scope of the problem is the first step toward developing programs, initiatives and policies to increase physical activity,” according to AFI Advisory Board Chair Walt Thompson, Ph.D., FACSM. “The data evaluated for this report will help identify each metropolitan area’s strengths and weaknesses.”

Based on figures related to healthy lifestyles and physical activity, the Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) of Washington-Arlington-Alexandria scored 74.4 in the AFI data report to achieve the top ranking. Metro areas completing the top five were Minneapolis-St. Paul, Denver, Boston and San Francisco, which finished at the top of the inaugural rankings in 2008. Seattle, ACSM’s host city for its 2009 Annual Meeting, along with the surrounding MSA, finished sixth.

The western United States dominated the top 10, with only three cities lying east of the Mississippi River. The nation’s largest cities finished in the middle of the pack with New York at 22nd, Chicago at 25th and Los Angeles at 30th.

The Washington metro area scored above average on the percentage of its citizens who eat five or more fruits and vegetables per day and had a low percentage of smokers. The area also has lower percentages of those with chronic health problems such as obesity, diabetes, angina or coronary heart disease.

Washington also boasts a high percentage of city land area for parks; higher park-related expenditures per capita; more recreation centers, tennis courts, park units and swimming pools per capita; a high percentage of citizens using public transportation or bicycling/walking to work; a higher-level state requirement for physical education classes; and a higher-than-average number of primary health care providers.

“The WellPoint Foundation is honored to be the founding and ongoing sponsor of the AFI program, and we are committed to improving the health of our nation,” said Wesley Wong, M.D., M.M.M., Regional Vice President and National Medical Director for WellPoint’s affiliated health plans and member of the AFI Advisory Board. “By supporting AFI alongside programs like our Healthy Generations initiative, we are able to identify risk areas and develop partnerships with community organizations promoting local programs designed to reduce areas of concern.”

The metropolitan rankings included in the report are:

Rank/Metropolitan Area/Score

1. Washington, D.C. 74.4

15. Atlanta, Ga. 59.3

22. New York, N.Y. 48.9

25.Chicago, Ill. 47.6

26. Nashville, Tenn. 46.8

33. St. Louis, Mo. 42.5*

35. Dallas, Texas 39.6

37. Memphis, Tenn. 38.5

43. Birmingham, Ala. 32.2

*Scores have been rounded to the nearest tenth of a point resulting in some apparent ties; however, the rankings are based on the full, calculated scores that were not equal in those cases.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One more thing to do: Trim the BMI

One Man's View

You may have missed the obesity epidemic which plagues the country, with all the worry over the swine flu, AIDS, avian flu, etc.

It seems, to be perfectly blunt, Americans are much bigger than they were a few decades ago. But, in this era of political correctness, we do not use words like "fat", "pudgy" or "chubby", and with good reason, particularly when dealing with children. Demeaning or insulting folks is not typically found under the heading of solutions.

And thus the scientifically accurate term "Body Mass Index" has entered our lexicon. Basically, this indicates where you are on a scale which measures how much you weigh compared to your height. To me, it means the same thing as overweight, but health experts think this is a better way to get people to understand the health risks. Folks with high BMIs are increasingly susceptible to any number of serious ailments.

And what is the solution to this problem? Why, the schools of course! Under a new regulation, schools will measure BMIs and send this information back to the parent. What should clearly be between a child, his/her parent, and a physician has now become yet another concern for the schools. Just the cost of copying and mailing these letters in this era of severe budgets is not trivial. But besides that, and besides the fact it is not the proper role for a public school, why waste time? The answer to the rise in collective bulk is obvious. And since they have selected the schools as a means to solve the problem, let's start there. How many schools do you think cut down on Physical Education classes and recess in an attempt to cram every possible minute of the day into test preparation? Which programs do you think were the first to be cut when budgets got lean? When I was in Jr. High, at May A. Gallagher, we took gym classes at Doyle Field and went swimming in the YMCA pool. We had a team for every sport - football, soccer, basketball, baseball and track, and intramurals as well. Homerooms used to square off in whiffle ball tournaments, so you did not need to be a super jock to be able to participate in a fun physical activity. That was back when education officials somehow knew that kids needed time to be kids, that there was only so much knowledge a growing adolescent could absorb in any given time period.

Then some tests came back and showed the U.S. was behind Bahrain or Singapore or some other place where they beat you with a stick if you get below a "B", and panic set in. We needed to test more, to hold teachers "accountable" and reach "standards" to compete with India and China to keep the economy strong. (We're about eight years into the No Child Left Behind era of testing, by the way - how's the economy making out?) Anybody else remember the Presidential Fitness Award? Talk about standards! You strived to be in shape, rather than assume, because round is a shape it meant the same thing. How about the gym show and the obstacle course at MAG? All were free. All are relics of a bygone era.

I also remember drinking Kool-Aid with real, added sugar, staying out until dark without a cell phone and actually getting up from the couch to change the TV station because there was no remote control. Your folks would let you do "nothing" as long as it was done outside. And of course, once you were outside "nothing" quickly became something, because there was no Ipod or Xbox or any of the other electronic games which are so prevalent and which require no physical exertion or acumen beyond supple thumbs. You played SOMETHING because that was all there was to do. People blame fast food joints but caloric intake is not the sole culprit. You can take a lot of calories in if you are burning them off. Few calories are consumed by a body parked in front of video games for four, five or six hours a day. When caloric intake is coupled with inertia on the other end, that's when you have a problem. Our collective technological expertise has made things much easier. Our fiscal policies have lessened opportunities for physical activity. Our testing obsession has done the same. The growing disparity between rich and poor has exacerbated nutritional disadvantages. And what is the solution?

The schools of course. Who else?

Fran Thomas is a life-long Leominster resident and principal of Fitchburg's Memorial Middle School.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Schools encouraging students to stay healthy

By Brooke Kelley

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - May is National Physical Fitness and Sports month.

The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) is raising awareness by urging parents and schools to help children explore a wide variety of physical activities to determine what they like and then encourage them to participate in those activities on a regular basis.

This week, there are several field days scheduled for Savannah-Chatham County Public Schools for students to learn about exercise and healthy eating habits and participate in a variety of fun activities.

It's just one way the school system is helping to fight childhood obesity.

The school system has been partnering with several community organizations to promote physical activity in the schools and community throughout in May and will celebrate National Physical Education and Sports month May 26 through May 29.

The theme is Be Active Your Way.

Pedometers get kids active

University of Newcastle

A review of studies has found that pedometers are a successful way of encouraging young people to get active.

Researchers at the University of Newcastle analysed 14 international studies where pedometers were used to track physical activity in children aged eight to 11 years and teenagers aged 14 to 17 years.

Dr David Lubans from the University's School of Education said prior to the study little was known about pedometers' effects on physical activity among young people.

"Recent studies looking at the impact of pedometers on adults found physical activity increased by around 2,000 steps per day and decreased body mass index and blood pressure levels," Dr Lubans said.

"While pedometers appeared to have an important part to play in the promotion of activity among adults, much less was known regarding the impact on behaviour in youth.

"Our research found that in 12 of the 14 studies, pedometers were successful in increasing physical activity among youth. Studies recorded increases of 500-2,500 steps per day and were most successful in increasing physical activity among pre-teens and teenagers with initially low levels of activity."

The basic premise underlying the use of pedometers to increase physical activity is that the immediate visual feedback of the number of steps taken increases awareness of how personal behaviour choices affect physical activity.

Pedometers are able to provide up-to-the-minute information which can be used to adjust activity plans to achieve physical activity objectives.

Dr Lubans said young people in particular needed to be made more conscious of the benefits of physical activity on their long-term health.

"Although youth participation in organised sports and activities has remained relatively stable over time, incidental activity has been eroded from the lives of many young people. They also consume too much soft drink and junk food, and don't eat enough fruit and vegetables.

"The prevalence of obesity among Australian youth has accelerated since the early 1970s and latest data suggest around one quarter of young Australians are overweight or obese.

"Our research sends a strong message that promoting the use of pedometers is an effective way to increase the amount of physical activity young people undertake."

Schools tackle childhood obesity a sit-up at a time

Weight-related diseases pose health epidemic in Canada

By Robert Barron, Daily News

The battle against childhood obesity continues in the Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district, three years after statistics revealed that one in four B.C. children aged two to 17 were overweight.

But efforts initiated by the province and adopted by the district -- including the Ministry of Education's mandatory requirement of 30 minutes of physical activity each day and the removal of junk food from school vending machines -- are starting to pay dividends, say those in Nanaimo who are leading the movement.

Jackie Poulin, principal of Forest Park Elementary School and the district's fitness guru, said such initiatives are teaching students to make healthy choices in their daily lives, but also cautions that "change doesn't happen in a day."

Brian Lennox, a teacher, coach and fitness advocate, said there is still a lot of work to be done to get students to adopt healthier habits.

"Recent reports are indicating that unless something is done now to deal with unhealthy lifestyles, incidences of Type 2 diabetes could bankrupt our health system by 2035," Lennox said.

"Schools are considered one of the main vehicles of change in society, including helping to form positive attitudes towards life and living, so if we could be more proactive in our approach to health in schools, it would go a long way towards a healthier society and reduced costs on the system down the road."

Brennen Savage and Keira Christensen, Grade 5 students at Forest Park, consider themselves to be both active and healthy, but they acknowledge that many of their friends live more sedentary lives with too much time spent playing video games and not eating enough nutritious foods.

"Some of my friends are heavier than they should be and many of them bring potato chips and chocolate bars with their lunches," Brennen said during a school break on Thursday.

"I play video games and I eat my share of chips and chocolate bars, but my family encourages healthy living and eating, although I don't like vegetables, so I think I'm pretty fit."

Physical fitness programs -- including the mandatory 30 minutes of daily activity -- are designed at the discretion of individual schools and teachers. At Forest Park, Poulin has had a number of her classes take part in a "boot camp" run by Nanaimo's Full On Fitness. The program is paid for by the school.

The program involves exercises like intensive running, skipping and pushups to improve overall fitness. Brennen and Keira think the program has improved their fitness.

"Some of the kids in my class asked why we had to go to boot camp in the beginning, but most learned to like it after they took part in it," Keira said.

"I don't know about other schools, but I think there's less overweight kids in Forest Park since I started school here."

With health enthusiast Poulin at its helm, Forest Park may be more aggressive than most schools in encouraging healthy lifestyles.

The school district pays Poulin for just half a day a week to promote health in district schools. It's a responsibility she takes on in addition to her full-time duties as a school principal.

She doesn't have much time to visit the district's 40 schools, but she regularly puts together attachments to school newsletters with health information for students and parents.

"Getting our students more active requires continuing education for everybody in the community, not just the kids," said Poulin, whose undergraduate degree is in physical education.

"Gains are being made and momentum is building as people understand the importance of physical fitness, but certainly lots more work needs to be done. It's an area that I'm passionate about and I believe a momentum is growing in society towards healthier living and it seems to be getting better all the time."

Lennox said the 30 minutes set aside for exercise in the schools each day is only effective if it's an intensive workout that adolescents require for optimum health, and it should be in conjunction with a rigorous physical education program.

"Physical education should be one of the most important components of our education system," he said.

"Students need the very minimum of 40 minutes to an hour of intensive physical activity, at least four days a week, as part of living healthy lives and this would have a huge impact on their lives down the road and lead to a healthier society, with fewer health costs."

Mike Munro, school district superintendent, said while no studies have been done to determine the success rates of the initiatives to promote health in schools, teachers tell him the overall impact has been positive.

"The research is clear, and common sense tells us as well, that daily activity and eating healthy foods is important for health, as well as being helpful with our students' efforts to attain success at school and in life," Munro said. "I believe we're making gains in the district in encouraging healthy living and we're seeing increases in students' physical strength, as well as their concentration levels as a result. But we must continue our efforts and improve them as we go."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Bill steps up rigorous activity in Physical Education classes

By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau

AUSTIN -- Texas students would have to spend more time running, jumping and playing games in their physical education classes under a bill the state House tentatively approved Tuesday.

The measure by state Rep. Rob Eissler, R-The Woodlands, would require students to spend at least half of their time in P.E. classes engaged in moderate or vigorous activities. Schools would have to offer a variety of activities, including competitive games.

The classes also would have to encourage students to make physical activity a lifelong habit.

About 42 percent of Texas fourth-graders are obese, overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, according to a House Research Organization analysis. The bill was meant to help children learn early the

Haggerty featured in revolving door report Political watchdog group Texans for Public Justice is out with a new report today on the time-honored legislative tradition of…EP ethics bill drama continues; bill is set for Friday vote State Rep. Marisa Marquez said today that the El Paso County ethics bill is set to come before the Texas…importance of physical activity to maintain good health.

Don Disney, facilitator for health and physical education in the El Paso Independent School District, said requirements in the bill were based at least partly on fitness programs in the district.

Elementary students in EPISD wear pedometers in their P.E. classes to keep track of their activity levels, he said. And in high schools, students wear heart-rate monitors and try to stay within their rates for 25 minutes.

"It's all about increasing what we call the activity quotient," Disney said.

Rates of obesity and diabetes, Disney said, are problems in particular among Hispanics in border areas such as El Paso.

The fitness bill still faces a final vote in the House. It already
cleared the Senate, but would have to be considered again in that chamber because of modifications by House members. It would then go to Gov. Rick Perry for his signature.

A Guide To The Importance of Physical Education Programs

Author: Steve Bishop

Physical activity offers a broad range of benefits, including the prevention of obesity, improved self confidence, and an overall sense of well-being. Physical education programs within the school setting can set the stage for how children view physical fitness, activity levels, and future health. Physical education programs also include general health and safety information in addition to providing opportunities for students to learn how to cooperate with one another in a team setting.

A Lifetime of Health The school setting provides a structured atmosphere in which to incorporate physical health activities and ideally develop healthy habits for life. Studies indicate that promotion of a healthy lifestyle taught in physical education classes can influence long-term health benefits such as reduced rates of obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Perhaps just as importantly, physical education programs can teach students that physical activity can be fun. With a broad range of games and activities, children are exposed to forms of exercise that don't simply involve running around a track. Games and other activities incorporate teamwork, strategy, skill-building exercises, and fun.

Nutritional Information Physical education classes are ideal for introducing basic nutritional concepts to children. Poor eating habits are common among many children and adolescents; however, a solid foundation in healthy eating choices can help lay the groundwork for improved food choices. Children who eat regular, healthy meals consisting of a wide range of food choices concentrate better in school and are less disruptive. Healthy eating also decreases the chances of children developing serious health problems early in life and reduces obesity rates among youth and into adulthood.

Life Skills Physical education also provides an opportunity for children to develop critical life skills, such as problem solving, strategy, and working together. Many team sports require participants to work together to achieve a goal. Children also learn the basics of good sportsmanship and that there is much more to sports and physical activities than simply winning or losing. Sports require training, mental and physical preparation, and help build self-confidence.

Mental Health Regular physical activity has shown to have many psychological and mental benefits in addition to the physical ones. For example, regular exercise can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and promote an overall sense of well-being. The increased blood flow during exercise transports oxygen to all parts of the body, including the brain, which can help improve memory and reasoning skills. Conversely, a lack of oxygen, which can result from not enough deep breathing, can lead to disorientation, confusion, fatigue, and memory and concentration difficulties.

Gym class has manifold benefits

Chicago Daily Herald
Letter to the Editor
by Nathan Robert Parks

Physical education is not taken seriously as a class, and isn't even required for four years in high school. Physical education is just as important as other classes, and therefore should be taken all four years of high school.

P.E. can be very informative about what is good for your body and healthy habits that can lead to a better, healthier life for most. There is a serious lack of activity in the youth today, and obesity is skyrocketing. Taking a P.E. class can force kids to be active, and possibly become interested in activity outside of class. Also, a P.E. grade can improve students' GPA's that are not as well rounded in other core classes such as math, English, etc.

Physical education should be required for all four years so students can learn healthy habits that can benefit them throughout their lives, get kids active and out of those desks, and even improve their GPAs.

Parents must take blame for obesity

by Cara Stucke
Springfield News Leader
Springfield, MO

In response to the letter written by Bonnie Linhardt, of the American Heart Association, published May 12, 2009. I agree with most everything she stated. I agree that child obesity is an epidemic. I agree that lack of physical activity and a diet that is high in empty and fat-laden calories is the reason for this epidemic. And I certainly agree that this can hurt a child's academic, social and emotional development.

The children today have the exact same P.E. requirement for graduation as I did 20+ years ago. The problem I see is that we treat our school system like a day care for our children. Miss Linhardt states that "Missouri schools have decreased the time allocated for physical education, while increasing the time that kids spend sitting in the classroom." Well, I must ask: isn't that what school is all about? Sitting in classrooms? Learning?

Child obesity is not the responsibility of our schools, in my opinion. It is, however, the responsibility of the parents of these children. We not only feed our children, from the time they come into this world, but we teach our children how to eat. If she wants to write a letter to the News-Leader to point out the horrible epidemic of child obesity because she is a qualified advocate with statistics and facts, then I am all for it. But lay the blame where the blame actually lies: with the parents of these children.

Parents, before you contact your state legislators, put down the menu, make a salad, go for a walk, and talk to your children. Teach your children, as this is your epidemic; and your epidemic will kill your children. Our school system is not your babysitter.

Coach Lewis' Thoughts

I think that we can do a lot as Physical Education teachers, teaching students how to be healthy and how to be physically active for a lifetime. However, we cannot control what the children do when they are at home (what they eat, how much exercise they get, etc).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Kids need P.E. more than R & R

by Eddie Schissler, Lakeside Elementary School

Children in the United States are in danger of becoming the fattest adults in history. One of the best ways to stop this trend is to provide more time for physical education during the school day. Children sit all day at school and when they get home, all they want to do is sit and play video games.

Lack of exercise causes laziness, obesity and lower brain function. Increased physical activity cuts fat, which helps lower the risk of diabetes. When kids exercise in P.E., they get into a habit of participating in more physical activities. Exercise could increase brain function and could help fight depression

More exercise not only increases muscle mass, but it decreases laziness and obesity while increasing brain power.

Results From BMI Screenings Prompt Tennessee School District to Improve P.E. Curriculum

by Drake
Memphis Commercial Appeal

Recognizing that a significant percentage of school children in Shelby County, Tenn., are overweight, the district is trying to help schools improve opportunities for exercise, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. As part of a first-time effort to assess students’ weight status, all 51 schools in the county measured the body mass index (BMI) of approximately 18,000 students in kindergarten and second, fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth grades. Although not all schools have posted results, district officials plan to use the data to focus interventions on schools recording higher BMIs. Specifically, the district will aim to develop more efficient physical education (P.E.) classes, provide counseling opportunities for students and inform parents of their child's weight status. Responding to the call for improved P.E. classes, Bon Lin Elementary School in Bartlett has integrated Nintendo Wii and Wii Fit into its classes. School officials say the video game system, purchased with a $500 grant from the Bartlett Education Foundation, is helping students increase their physical activity and become more engaged in P.E. classes. Readings from pedometers worn by fifth-grade students at Bon Lin during P.E. classes register more steps when students are exercising with Wii Fit than when they are participating in traditional class activities

Tips on Exercise for Overweight Kids

by admin

It’s no surprise that an inactive lifestyle and obesity go hand in hand. The sedentary lifestyles that are so rampant in America are much to blame for obesity at large in our society. Exercise for overweight kids goes a long way in promoting weight loss and overall good health. The problem is that many overweight children feel embarrassed or awkward taking part in organized physical activities at school. Adding to the problem is the fact that fewer high schools are requiring students to take part in physical education programs.

Exercise for overweight kids is also made more difficult due to all the creature comforts that exist today. In this digital age, many children would rather stay at home and watch TV, play video games, or surf the net than go outside and play with their peers. Exercise for overweight kids is also harder since they often have difficulty breathing. In some serious cases, it can even lead to asthma.

Some Steps We Can Take to Treat and Prevent Obesity

The first people who need to act when it comes to encouraging exercise for overweight kids are parents. For starters, provide help for overweight kids by getting them away from the TV. According to statistics, cutting down a child’s TV time to 7 hours per week could cut his or her risk of obesity by a third. Permanent lifestyle changes are in order, such as cutting back TV time, making adjustments to diet, and becoming active as a family. Always provide your children with an active alternative to inactivity, such as going to a walking trail versus sitting down and playing video games.

Parents must be involved in their child’s weight loss process and have a positive attitude in order for there to be success. Studies show that children who have at least one parent involved are more likely to lose weight and keep it off. Exercise for overweight kids should not be just for the kids alone; the entire family should participate.

Obese parents tend to have obese kids so that is another big reason why the whole family should be involved in the weight loss process. If the whole family learns to exercise and eat right together, the children will learn to live with these important changes and get rid of bad habits.

Parents can encourage exercise for overweight kids by requiring physical activities throughout the day such as walking the dog or doing yard work and other active chores. When buying gifts for their children, parents should buy toys that promote physical activity such as balls and other sports equipment. Kids who are seeking part-time jobs should be encouraged to find active jobs such as bicycle messenger, lawn mowing, or paper carrier.

Furthermore, on the weekends parents should plan physical activities for the entire family such as hiking, biking, or flying a kite. Encouraging children to join school sports and other activities also promotes exercise for overweight kids.

In conclusion, there are many ways for parents to help their overweight kids get more exercise and live healthier lives. The key is setting goals towards leading a healthier, more active lifestyle as a family and not just leaving it up to your kids. Exercise for overweight kids doesn’t have to be strict and boring. For the best results, make it a fun, family affair.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

PE helps keep kids healthy and helps them learn

Bonnie Linhardt
Missouri State Advocacy Director, American Heart Association
St. Louis Post Dispatch

Over the last 10 years, Missouri schools have decreased the time allocated for physical education, while increasing the time that kids spend sitting in the classroom.

Across the country and right here at home, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. It is estimated that 20 percent of children in Missouri will be obese by the end of 2010. Researchers suggest that the childhood obesity epidemic, in large part, is because of a decline in regular physical activity and a diet that is high in empty and fat-laden calories.

According to the American Heart Association, a lack of regular physical activity can hurt a child's academic, social and emotional development. Research shows that healthy children learn more effectively and achieve more academically. Experts agree that increasing physical activity is the most important component of any program designed to combat childhood obesity, yet many Missouri schools have cut back on physical education programs.

We must give Missouri youth the opportunity to live healthy lives by providing them with more education on the importance of nutrition and the opportunity to be active in a quality physical education program. The American Heart Association strongly supports pending legislation that would require all Missouri school districts to have quality physical education programs.

State legislators should support quality physical education programs for all school districts. Together, we can help prevent childhood obesity by helping the leaders of tomorrow implement healthier lifestyles today.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Schools and gym front lines in the war of the waist line

by Alan Wechsler, staff writer

ALBANY — At the Montessori Magnet School, gym class has taken a strange turn.
At one end of the gym, students bounce foam balls on a tennis racket. On the other, kids try to keep a hula hoop spinning for 20 seconds. Other youths are balancing on a two-by-four, jumping rope or practicing throwing and catching a rubber ball.

Kiyonna Burden, a fourth-grader, has a big smile on her face. She has just passed the 60-second foam ball test — and is well on her way to getting a certificate for completing the PE Central Challenge.

Asked if she knew the purpose of it all, she looks puzzled for a moment. And then she remembers:
“Fitness,” she says, “gives you good health.”

The battle for the future of fitness is being fought in gym classes such as these. Amid rising concerns about childhood obesity and the effects of too much TV or video games, coaches and health teachers are asking: What can we do to get kids to exercise more?

Locally, you’ll find teachers giving out pedometers for walking contests. Physical education teachers are preaching the importance of nutrition, while at the same time looking for new ways — such as yoga or dance — to get children to enjoy exercise.

And the programs don’t stop at the end of the school day. Local YMCAs also are getting into he game, by deploying staff to try new programs meant to head off a life of lethargy before it begins. One local Y, for instance, even takes families to tour local supermarkets, discussing nutrition at the front lines of the war on obesity.

Experts are even looking toward the enemy — video games themselves — to encourage exercise in a digital age. New technology lets kids work out in real time while holding Wii-type devices that translate their movements onto a video game character.

“It’s slow progress. But we’re making progress,” says Mary Ann Kinnaird, physical education teacher at Albany’s Montessori school.

She brought the PE Challenge — the game with the balls and rackets — to her school after a colleague recommended it. It has a lot in common with other programs schools have launched to combat obesity: it’s fun, and it gets kids active. “They leave here dripping,” Kinnaird says.

Among children and adolescents, there always will be the athletes — the kids who love sports — who are in no danger of going to pot. It’s the rest of the under-18s that people worry about.

Between 1963 and 2003, the percentage of obese children in America ages 6 to 11 went up from 4.2 to 18.8. Among those 12-19, the percentage rose from 4.6 to 17.4 during that period, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. The numbers are based on a child’s body mass index, or BMI, a ratio of weight versus height.

“Kids are no longer in the parks out playing, no longer are they riding their bikes around with their buddies,” says Paul Reinisch, athletic director for the Troy City School District.

“Certain things that you would think that would be normal are lost arts — running technique, throwing a ball,” he adds. “You see in someone who’s 10 years old who hasn’t played games and run, they’re behind. Running and throwing and basic gross motor skills are lacking.”

Blame more than the electronic age. A few years ago, kids routinely had the run of their streets, playing with neighbors until dinner time. Today, many parents worry that something bad could happen to their children. They keep a much tighter reign on their kids, arranging playdates and planned activities instead of letting them run around unsupervised.

“I don’t think kids are climbing trees or playing field games,” says Chuck Waterstram, gym teacher at Dorothy Nolan Elementary School in Wilton. “Their upper-body strength isn’t what it used to be. But I will say we’re very conscious of that.”

The issue is more than just kids who can’t throw. Nationally, more than 280,000 Americans die from obesity-related causes each year, according to the National Institutes of Health. Obesity leads to costly and life-changing illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.

State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli has called obesity a serious financial concern for New York, where obesity is said to cost the state $242 million a year in public and private medical expenses. More than a million young New Yorkers are said to be obese.

But schools are paying attention. The number of districts nationally that are spending money to improve physical education programs has grown from 43 percent in 2000 to 75 percent in 2006, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey.

The issue is about more than just long-term health. Studies around the nation show that the more fit kids are, the better they do academically.

Locally, many school gym classes are reacting by spending less time on team sports like softball in favor of sports that keeps kids moving all the time
Dorothy Nolan, for instance, has installed a climbing wall, ropes and a cargo net in the gym.

“It’s not just a nice thing,” Waterstram says. “Aerobic fitness helps to grow brain cells. (Exercise) changes their biology to help them to learn.”

In the Bethlehem Central School District, gym teachers created soccer games with smaller teams, which gets the students running more often. They also teach “life skills” like ultimate Frisbee, golf, yoga, bowling, cross-country skiing, even ballroom dance.

“We don’t have students long enough to get them in shape,” says Fred Powers, the district’s supervisor of health and physical education. “We want to make sure they find a physical activity they have an interest in and hopefully continue that through life.”

Shenendehowa has even more choices — bocce, table tennis, self-defense, aerobics.
“There’s got to be something they like,” says Becky Carman, the district’s physical education administrator.

At Blue Creek Elementary in Colonie, gym teacher Reggie Daigle holds an early-morning walking club in the warmer weather. As many as 40 kids, plus some parents, have taken part.

In the end, though, advocates say parents need to get involved if they want to encourage exercise. And some do more than others.

Parent Justin Burns, whose two boys attend Blue Creek, says both kids like the walking program. Since the program began, they’ve also started going to a local gym with their father.

“It’s pretty early in the morning, but they get up,” he says. “They just can’t get enough exercise.”

Exercise and electronics can mix

by Alan Wechsler, staff writer

(The Times Union is running a special report on efforts in the Capital Region to encourage fitness and good nutrition to kids at a time of rising obesity rates. In this story, we look at how electronic games — thought to be one of the leading factors to kid inactivity — can actually be used to encourage exercise.)

Gym teacher Jon McClement saw the future of physical education a year ago at a conference at the Desmond Hotel.

He put on a belt and became a character in a virtual reality game.
“You’d have a belt that senses your movement and a screen right in front of you,” says McClement, who teaches at Albany High School. “Balls are dropping out of the ceiling, and you have to keep the balls from going into floor holes. It’s exhausting.”

The technology that brought you the Wii — an interactive video game with a hand control that recognizes movement — has opened up a whole universe of new games that encourage kids to move around. Now, companies are making heavy-duty versions of those games meant to survive daily use by multiple gym classes in an educational setting.

The idea of linking physical activity and video games dates back more than a decade — notably through the arcade game Dance Dance Revolution, where players earn points by following a lighted dance pattern. Schools are only beginning to embrace such games for gym classes, but there already are some local converts.

Red Mill Elementary School in East Greenbush recently paid $15,000 for three Sportwalls, a large electronic panel that kids hit with beanbags or balls to get points. The games speak, light up and keep score. Kids wait in line to play.

“You need something that will trick them into becoming physically active,” says John Murray, co-owner of Advantage Sport and Fitness of Ithaca, which sold the machine to the school.

The purchase came out of a three-year, $750,000 federal grant the district received last year in order to improve its physical education programs.

YMCAs also have gotten involved in the electronic age. A number of local YMCAs have launched a new program that combines exercise bikes and virtual reality. Called Espresso Bike, the program lets kids spin side-by-side while watching a digital version of themselves racing on computer screens.

“We’ve got to appeal to these kids,” says Nancy Gildersleeve, senior program director at Glenville Y. “What do they like to do — they like to play video games.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More students allowed to skip Physical Education

By Denise Smith Amos

Next school year dozens of Taylor High students will skip gym class - but they won't get into trouble for it.

The Three Rivers school board in northwest Hamilton County recently voted to let high school athletes, cheerleaders and band members who have been involved in those activities for at least two years forgo gym class. This opens their schedules to take other courses while their peers sweat out state-mandated physical education classes.

About a dozen other districts in Cincinnati's suburbs and several area private high schools are waiving PE for certain students, taking advantage of a 2-year-old state law. Southwest's school board, for instance, will decide April 23 whether to make gym optional for such students.

"If our kids are involved in an activity over a long period of time, whatever sport they're in, they've already learned or shown a commitment to fitness over a lifetime," said Chris Brown, Southwest's superintendent.

But some educators say this isn't good for teenagers.

Nationwide, health and education groups are pushing for stronger phys ed classes and requirements at a time when school districts need to cut costs and pay attention to student test scores on academic subjects.

A solid PE class - more than sports, cheerleading or band - can teach students about remaining active beyond high school, said Steve Mitchell, a Kent State physical education professor who also coaches high school soccer.

"Consider the high school football player," he said. "The offensive or defensive linemen have very specific roles in a football team. And football is not a lifetime activity. The majority of those kids will stop playing after high school.

"Unless we educate students in other activities they can pursue across their lifespan, this (waiver) does increase the likelihood that they'll become sedentary adults."

Too many high schoolers are already sedentary.

According to national statistics, 12.4 percent of Ohio's high school students and 15.6 percent of Kentucky's were considered obese in 2007. A separate survey of Ohio students showed that 55 percent of school-age teens reported being physically inactive - 11 percentage points higher than the national average.

About half of all states allow schools to make some exceptions to PE rules, including Kentucky, which lets JROTC students skip gym. But only a few let high school students opt out.

James Wagner hopes he'll be one of them.

The 14-year-old eighth-grader from North Bend will attend Taylor High next year and plans to apply for a waiver. He has played baritone and trombone at middle school for two years, marching 1½ to 2 miles a day during summers and through football seasons, sometimes practicing until 8 p.m. "Each time somebody makes a mistake we've got to do it all over again," he said. "It's tiring, especially at night. You just want to go home and do your homework and go to bed."

He plans to stay in band in high school. A waiver, he said, would let him take a study hall period to do homework.

The waiver also would relieve some crowded gym classes and create opportunities for more specialized PE instruction, said Rhonda Bohannon, superintendent at Three Rivers. For instance, Taylor High would create an advanced PE course for students who want to delve deeper into fitness.

Other districts say gym classes would shrink enough to offer body sculpting, weight lifting or other activities such as bowling and archery. But the issue of fairness still comes up.

A Cincinnati Public school board committee recently decided against PE waivers because they would help only the students who were accomplished enough to make their high school teams or band. That gives another leg up to students whose parents can afford such things as private lessons and summer band or sports camps and further disenfranchises low-income kids, said Melanie Bates, a board member.

Coach Lewis' take:
I think that this is a bad idea. Most high schoolers are sedentary and giving them an option to get out of PE does nothing but say "it's not as important as your academics." Physical Education is important not only for the fact that you are teaching about ways to build a healthy lifestyle outside of school, but for a lot of students, that may be the only activity they get. So what if they are an athlete, band member, or cheerleader, could you also use more exercise or participate in activities that you can use later in life when you are no longer an athlete, band member, or cheerleader?

I am tired of the stereotypes that all PE teachers roll out the dodgeballs and sit back and let kids wail on each other. There are A LOT of great PE teachers out there, that are doing great things for students. I also realize that their are PE teachers who do roll the dodgeballs out, drink their coffee, and read the paper. Let's continue to weed out these old schooler's who do just that. I encourage all administrators to pop in on your PE teachers unannounced, and make sure they are building a solid PE program by teaching students about remaining active beyond school.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Schools share ideas to reduce obesity in children

By Al Edwards
Reporter - American Journal

SCARBOROUGH: Judy Campbell has been the Scarborough School Department’s director of school nutrition for 22 years, and she says during that time she has seen obesity among students rise, forcing her and school officials to try and make a change.

Last year, Campbell and other school officials established the Back Pack Program, which allows lower-income students to take home nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables during school vacation.

She said school officials came up with the idea as a way to promote healthy eating for kids, who she says are more obese on average because of easy-to-grab fast foods and a less active society.

“We hope through the Back Pack Program that we will be able to teach kids to make healthier choices and lessen their chances for obesity,” Campbell said. “We hope that by teaching them about the benefits of living healthier at a younger age, this will allow them to teach their own children about the benefits of healthier living.”

Campbell’s idea came to light at the first annual 5-2-1-0 School Symposium on April 2 at Hannaford’s Communications Center at the company's headquarters on Pleasant Hill Road in Scarborough.

Nearly 140 educators from across Maine attended the symposium to discuss topics such as eating healthy, offering a greater variety of food choices in schools and using more physical activity to foster better learning.

The 5-2-1-0 program endorses a four-part message of five or more servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of recreational screen time such as playing computer games or watching television, one hour or more of physical activity and zero sugary drinks.

The program is the brainchild of Victoria Rogers, a medical doctor in charge of the Kids Clinical Outcomes and Outreach Program at the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital at Maine Medical Center.

“I noticed that kids in our schools weren’t eating healthy enough and were spending less time being active," Rogers said. “I want this to be a tool, a guidance for schools to incorporate healthier aspects of living into their curriculum.”

The program is working with 114 schools across Maine, including Scarborough and Cape Elizabeth..

At the Wentworth Intermediate School in Scarborough, physical education teacher Keith Kitchin has spent the last year working with Rogers and trying to incorporate the 5-2-1-0, also known as the Let’s Go program, into his classes.

“We have the posters on the wall informing the kids to make healthier decisions in their daily lives,” Kitchin said. “I am also trying to talk less during my classes and give the kids more time for physical activity.”

In Cape Elizabeth, the school department in 2007 formed a district wellness committee comprised of a health teacher, school nurse, physical education teacher and a food service director to identify nutrition goals for the school.

Since then, Cape school officials have worked to raise awareness of healthy eating such as establishing a Fall Harvest lunch program that is tied into the schools’ gardens, and had a faculty weight-loss challenge program with 15 middle school staff participating.

“Let’s Go has a great support network and is a wonderful initiative,” said Karen Burke, Cape Elizabeth School Board member. “It allows us to better learn about healthy living and prepare our children to lead healthier lifestyles.”

Schools in the Greater Portland region are eligible for small minigrants provided by Let's Go to support their 5-2-1-0 Goes To School efforts. 5-2-1-0 School mini grants and programatic
funds come from significant contributions from Harvard Pilgram Health Care Foundation and the seven Founding Partners of Let's Go. The seven Founding Partners of Let's Go are Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Maine, Hannaford Brothers,
Maine Health, Maine Medical Center, TD Banknorth, Unum and United Way of Greater Portland.

"The program's coordinators are trying to increase school participation in Maine from 114 schools to 180," Rogers said. Recently, the program has expanded nationally with schools in the South and Midwest participating, Rogers said.

Karen Voci, executive director of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, who attended the symposium, said Maine schools and organizations should be proud of the work accomplished so far.

“Maine really is leading the pack with its efforts,” Voci said. “The rest of the nation is just starting to catch up.”

Using Technology for Fitness and Motivation

Exergaming Rocks AAHPERD
Gamercize brings the fire and makes Tampa come alive!

The national physical education show in Florida last week was full of exergaming, not only on the exhibition floor but also in the seminars, poster sessions and workshops. Gamercize was there too, making it all real!

Even before the conference began there was a special NASPE session "Using Technology in Physical Education Teacher Education" in one of the conference hotels. The use of technology to as a tool to make PE teachers life easier included Web 2.0, electronic student response systems and online assessments. Multiple sessions were presented by Derrick Mears (Western Washington University), Lisa Hansen (University of South Florida), Joanne Leight (Slippery Rock University) and Patrick Fine (Chesterfield Elementary School).

The highlight of the pre-conference was an excellent, in-depth presentation by Lisa Hansen on exergaming (Active Gaming) and Interactive Fitness. This started with issues around obesity, the decrease of general levels of physical activity and the role Recreational Screen Time (RST) has to play in this decline. The obvious choice of using technology for fitness instead of against fitness was presented, backed by research.

The most important aspect of the presentation for me was the thinking around implementation, to ensure exergaming is as effective in the real world as it can be proved in the lab. As Gamercize was early to Tampa, available (and portable enough!) this was used as a demonstration piece for a lesson plan to illustrate hands-on the key of the presentation. Using Gamercize and running through the lesson plan showed a subject's (Thanks Allison!!) resting heart rate of around 60 peak at 130 with an average of 120 throughout the 30 minute piece.

Gamercize itself was set up at booth #736 in the exhibition halls and was constantly busy, with word spreading around the delegates to visit our first appearance here! The key aspects of the equipment that rocked the conference are the ability to play any game, and hence get all kids interested, and the minimal interaction of "move to play" that enables all physical abilities to play exergames!

Of course the low cost of the equipment was of huge interest, and a few delegates between them even purchased all the demo equipment right off the booth at the end of the exhibition! This did make break-down much simpler! There is still a 10% discount running at for those that missed out at the show!

The first of the two formal sessions that delivered the exergaming message at the conference was "#351 - A Critical Look at Fitness Technology for Kids" by Dan Drury of Gettysburg College, parent of two and exergame evaluator. This session concentrated on the factors that make exergaming work, Intensity, Duration, Mode, Frequency and Progression.

Both the exercise physiologist view and kids perspective had equal billing to give a presentation that, I think, shook the delegates up to the fact not all exergames are created equal. Giving PE a structured approach to evaluation is an excellent idea and I agreed with the entire piece. I was surprised but happy to see Gamercize images in the presentation as illustrations for some of the points!

The second session that shook the halls of the Tampa Convention Center was "#551 - Exergames: Bridging the Gap between Video Games, Activity and Fun" by Stephen Yang of SUNY Cortland, parent of two and long standing exergame guru. This session focused on doing rather than talking and included short introductions by notables such as John Foley (SUNY Cortland), Lisa Hansen (USF), Andrea Oh (iTech Fitness) and Aaron Hart (Station PE).

The workshop started with brief introductions and key messages from Stephen's team before breaking out into Q and A sessions with the presenters. All the time the students from SUNY Cortland were getting their game on with DDR, Gamercize and Gamebike - while wearing heart rate monitors which were displayed on the big screen!

The common theme for the sessions was - oversubscription! Dan's presentation had delegates sitting and standing in the corridor outside while Stephen's workshop had attendance well beyond the capabilities of the PA system and even had exergaming spilling out into the concourse!
I would like to give special thanks to Lisa and Stephen for allowing Gamercize to be part of their sessions. Ernie, you were missed and would have enjoyed this conference immensely! Now we've set the scene for exergaming in PhysEd at Tampa all we have to do is deliver it to the kids and Let it Rock!

Sweeping In the New: P.E. teacher helps introduce broomball and more to elementary school for different exercising experience

By Walt Unks
Winston-Salem Journal

When physical-education teacher Shawn Marek arrived at Latham Elementary School in 2006, he found the equipment closet depleted.

"There was a box of jump ropes, some playground balls, basic PE equipment. I did the best that I could. I had to be creative," he said.

Marek began searching the Internet for grant opportunities and came across the Web site The organization matches public-school teachers' requests with donors from across the country. As of April 1, there were 69 active grant requests from Forsyth County.

In the three years that Marek has been at Latham, 10 of his DonorsChoose grant requests have been fulfilled. The grants, which ranged from $120 to about $500, have bought broomball equipment, pickleball sets, box soccer equipment, soccer goals, floor-hockey sticks, pedometers, heart-rate monitors, and safety mats for use under the gymnasium's basketball goals.

"I enjoy teaching sports that they haven't experienced yet," Marek said. "It's nice to see the look on (students') faces after they have played something that they have never played before. They just get really excited. You hear them talking in the hallway or telling their teachers about how much fun they had."

One repeat contributor to Marek's grant requests is Carolina Panthers Charities, which partially or fully financed three of his proposals.

Riley Fields, the director of community relations for the Panthers, said that DonorsChoose approached the team through a grant-making process.

"We initially funded the broomball project in the fall of 2007, then later in the year, last spring, we came back with the other grants," Fields said.

Similar to hockey, broomball is an ice sport that originated in Canada, but it uses a ball and modified brooms instead of a puck and sticks. At Latham, students play on the floor and stage in the gymnasium.

"It was unusual that Mr. Marek received three grants (from the Panthers), but the committee liked his approach to physical education, thinking outside the box to provide children a different approach to exercise," Fields said.

"Take his broomball application as an example. He was looking for an activity with broad appeal that was easy to play, yet used some of the existing equipment he already had. The game uses the building blocks of cardiovascular, motor-skill development, spatial awareness, and teamwork that are used in so many other sports."

Latham is classified as a Title I school, meaning that a high percentage of students come from low-income households. At Latham, more than 95 percent of children get free or reduced-price lunches, school officials said.

Despite additional financing that comes to the school through Title I, Marek said he gets only $200 a year to buy equipment.

"If I was to wait to build up enough funds to buy some of this equipment, it would take a long time," he said.

Marek said that one of his major concerns is obesity among local students.

Nancy Hoover, the program specialist for physical education and health for Winston-Salem Forsyth County Schools, said that a 2008 body-mass-index screening shows that 37.2 percent of first-graders and 44.1 percent of fourth-graders in the school system are classified as overweight or obese under federal guidelines.

As a physical-education teacher in Buffalo, Marek said he saw students every day or every other day.

"Moving to North Carolina, it was kind of a shock to me to only being able to see students once a week," he said. "For some students this is the only opportunity they have for exercising, which is really unfortunate."

He cited safe places to exercise in their neighborhood, weather, and such distractions as television and video games as reasons for the lack of physical activity in youth. He said he hopes that introducing students to different sports will encourage them to live physically healthy lifestyles.

Marek continues to make proposals for new equipment. His most recent request was for 12 tetherball sets, which were installed on the school's playground in December.

"It gives them something else to do besides kickball and jump rope," he said.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How Cookie Monster Can Help You Lose Fat

When was the last time you watched Sesame Street? If you have a youngster at home, maybe it was this morning! For most of us, however, it’s been years since we last viewed Big Bird and the gang. But, even now as adults, our friends from Sesame Street still have a lot to teach us.

Everyone loves Cookie Monster, that blue fellow that can never seem to get enough cookies. Cookie Monster never worried about calories, fat content or serving size…..he just wanted cookies! Who can forget the song “C is for cookie - that’s good enough for me!”?

But in this age of skyrocketing obesity rates and health care costs, even Cookie Monster has changed his eating habits. There?s even a new song: “A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food,” where Cookie Monster learns there are “anytime” foods and “sometimes” foods. (Source: The Associated Press, 2005; MSNBC)

Cookie Monster still eats cookies. After all, he IS the Cookie Monster! But now he eats cookies in moderation. Rumor has it that Cookie Monster is even experimenting with new, healthier types of cookies to sometimes replace his old favorite chocolate-chip cookies.

So what can we learn from Cookie Monster? First of all, it’s important to note that Cookie Monster is NOT ‘on a diet’. Cookie Monster knows that trying to force yourself to give up your favorite food is a sure path to failure. When we try to ‘willpower’ our way into giving up our absolute favorite treat, we inevitably fall off the wagon. It’s a much better plan to simply cut back on fattening foods, eating them less often and in smaller portions. That way we won’t feel deprived or even depressed, which leads to bingeing and a feeling of failure. Cookie Monster knows that if he tried to give up cookies altogether he would fail and soon be sneaking cookies late at night. Cookie Monster even knows that failing this way is very dangerous because it can lead us to believe that we are failures…..”I can’t do it, so why even try?”

Instead of giving up cookies altogether, Cookie Monster is doing the smart thing and just cutting back. That’s a great lesson for us! If you’ve failed on your last ten diets because you were trying to give up pepperoni pizza…..and you LOVE pepperoni pizza as much as Cookie Monster loves cookies…..then why try to give it up again? Take a lesson from Cookie Monster and simply cut back instead; eat smaller portions less often. Remember, cookies are a ’sometimes food’ now!

The second thing we can learn from Cookie Monster is to substitute healthier foods for fattening favorites. Cookie Monster is experimenting with healthier alternatives to his chocolate-chip cookies. He knows that he can still enjoy his treat without putting on the pounds. How can we adapt this lesson? How about trying veggie pizza instead of pepperoni pizza? If that doesn’t work for you, then how about asking the pizza place to put on 1/3 less pepperoni? Another alternative would be to make your own pizza at home and use the reduced fat or turkey pepperoni that’s available in every supermarket meat department. How about cutting back on the cheese by 1/3, or making your own using low-fat cheese? There are a lot of ways to modify pepperoni pizza to make it healthier!

The third fat-loss tip we can learn from Cookie Monster is that we need to continue our own health, fitness and nutrition education. “This season, each episode opens with a ‘health tip’ about nutrition, exercise, hygiene and rest. Sesame Street also will introduce new characters, such as talking eggplants and carrots, and offer parodies, such as ‘American Fruit Stand.’ Even guest stars will address healthy activities, such as Alicia Keys talking and singing about the importance of physical activity. Politicians have gotten into the act, filming public service announcements with Sesame Street residents. In one taping, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist taught Elmo to exercise ? jumping up and down. In another, Sen. Hillary Clinton and the small red monster discuss the various textures and tastes of foods.” (Source: The Associated Press, 2005; MSNBC)

We all watched Sesame Street when we were growing up, and I must confess that Cookie Monster was one of my favorites. While we may think that we’ve outgrown him and his friends at ‘123 Sesame Street’, they still have a lot to teach us.

Take a moment this week to watch Sesame Street. Take a trip down memory lane. Remember when the Sesame Street gang helped you learn your ABC’s and 123’s, and then think about what they can teach us today.
Photo from:

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Physical Education Encourages Healthy Students

Christine Gates - Junior
The University of Dayton's Student Newspaper

The other day I was sitting in chapter waiting for a student (not in my chapter) to give a presentation about recruitment. As I was sitting there we started conversation with the typical name, grade, major, etc. When I answered the question about my major, I proudly replied "physical education." "Oh you mean gym," she replied. "That's kind of a fancy name for gym," she commented. In this article I wanted to clarify the common misconceptions of the stereotypical "gym" teacher. Growing up, our generation and our parents' generation spent their physical education classes with a "gym" teacher. The kind of teacher that rolled out the soccer ball, said play ball, and then would go back to eating his doughnut and reading his paper. This is where the title physical education slipped into the gym teacher.

However, my colleagues and I do not see ourselves as gym teachers with the doughnut and paper in hand. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says 16.3 percent of children and adolescence from ages 2 to 19 are obese, 35.3 percent of adult women are obese, and 33.3 percent of adult men are obese. Obesity is defined as having a Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30. In this day and age with the constant rise of obesity rates the need for quality, physical education is in even greater demand. Our job as physical educators is to educate our students about health issues, eating right, and participating in physical activity. Our job is to use the 30 to 40 minutes we have a week with the students to get the students' heart rates up by implementing constant activity right when the students walk into the classroom. Our job is to give the students exposure to all forms of activity so that students can find an activity they enjoy doing and that they will continue for the rest of their life. The ACSM (American College for Sports Medicine) recommends moderate aerobic physical activity at a minimum of 30 minutes five days a week, vigorous aerobic activity at a minimum of 20 minutes three days a week, two or more nonconsecutive days of weight training, and two to three days of flexibility training. My job and my colleagues' jobs are to share this information with the students we teacher so that the prevalence of obesity and the diseases it causes will no longer be an American epidemic.

Mull Elementary hosts pilot exercise, nutrition program

By Tracy Farnham | The News Herald

MORGANTON - Beginning in October, Mull Elementary School challenged not only staff but also students and parents to make the community healthier by eating smarter and moving more. They call the challenge "Mustangs in Motion."
As a pilot program, the goal is to reduce childhood obesity.
Initially, each student's body mass index was calculated.
Through this the school learned that 14 percent of students in kindergarten through second grade were overweight with 16 percent in the same age group were obese. Fifteen percent of third through fifth graders were overweight with 23 percent being obese.
Developed in conjunction with the Burke County School Health Advisory Council, this program was implemented to help meet the health challenges faced by Burke County residents.
The council believes a solid school health program will carry over into the general adult population and deliver a healthier Burke County.
Lisa Moore, health education supervisor and health promotion coordinator with the Burke County Health Department, provides information and resources and facilitates monthly family nights to encourage physical activity with the entire family.
Recently, parents, students and faculty gathered for family night, which included recognizing February as National Children's Health month and playing musical chairs along with other games to get everyone moving.
Tammy Collins has enjoyed the informative family nights. "I think it's a great idea and gives everyone something to look forward to." Collins said she learned healthier recipes, including an alternative healthier ranch dip.
This assessment will be conducted at the end of the school year to track changes.
Principal Jill King encouraged the staff to take advantage of fitness opportunities, including yoga and aerobics. They made a fitness room from used equipment, including a stair climber and treadmill donated by Blue Ridge HealthCare, Miller said.
"This gives the teachers an opportunity to do that on campus and not have to go elsewhere. They can use the room anytime it is available," she said.
"We are very pleased with what we're seeing school- wide, in the faculty and the community," King said.
"Our families have really bought into the nutrition and exercise and the snacks our students bring have really become more nutritious," King said.
Second-grade teacher Kim Eakin said, "During snack time at school I try to monitor the student's snacks, and I make a big deal out of a healthy snack. Apples are a healthy choice," Eakin said.
She doesn't belittle an unhealthy choice, but might say donuts are not the best choice for a school snack and ask the student if he or she could bring a healthier choice the next day.
"It is usually effective because students want to be recognized for making healthy choices," she said.
As a mom of three Mustangs (in first, third and fifth grades), Eakin said her family spends more time outside and chose not to have cable or satellite television.
"It was initially an economic necessity, however we have decided that the television is a huge time stealer," she said. The occasional movie is a planned family event.
"We read more frequently, and we play family games. We are able to talk and enjoy the conversation," she said.
In addition, Eakin said her family has made healthier eating choices eating more whole grains and almost no salt along with less sugar.
"I really try to moderate eating more vegetables and fruit. We ate a whole bag of apples in two days," she said.
In the classroom her students do energizers on days they don't have PE.
"We may jog in place while saying our spelling words three times each or do jumping jacks while making a sentence with one of the spelling or vocabulary words," Eakin said.
Mull health and PE teacher Kristie Stephens said she's in favor of the program.
"It has a great health aspect and more physical education and parent involvement."
Participants have filled out a survey asking for their thoughts on the program and what they would like to see. Also, they have been asked about any changes they have made.
Stephens said tutorials about healthy eating choices were handed out and they will soon log 60 minutes of daily activity that students will do at home with their families.

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Seven steps to help kids slim down

By Jeannine Stein
LA Times Blog

Childhood obesity is a thorny issue without simple solutions, but that hasn't daunted healthcare experts who work diligently to come up with viable proposals to help kids lose weight and get in shape.

The most recent strategy is the "Seven Steps to Success: A handout for parents of overweight children and adolescents," designed by physicians and weight-loss experts to be worked in progressive stages: medical management, education, environmental changes, support groups, two forms of cognitive behavior therapy (clinic or short-term, and long-term) and bariatric surgery.

The steps, published in the February issue of the journal Obesity Management, are a reaction to a detailed article published in the journal Pediatrics in 2007. That article also outlined a multi-pronged approach to obesity, including prevention, structured weight management that includes medical screenings, physical activity and diet; a multidisciplinary intervention with food monitoring and structured exercise; and very-low-calorie diets and bariatric surgery (this updated a less comprehensive plan published in that journal in 1998).

But not everyone in the field of childhood obesity was satisfied with all the suggestions outlined in the Pediatrics paper -- some objected to the education-oriented proposals. "An educational approach is very popular in the United States, but it's very ineffective," said Daniel Kirschenbaum, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Medical School in Chicago and co-author of the Obesity Management article. Providing information about eating more fruits and vegetables may be well-meaning, he added, but it's not so useful for prompting sustainable changes.

The seven steps ratchet up in intensity, requiring more effort and commitment to achieve results. "Try one intervention," he said, "and if in a month you're not making progress, try another one. Science has taught us that you can tell pretty quickly if something isn't working."

The plan presumes that the entire family is involved with the process -- previous studies have shown that better results come from a collaborative effort, not from telling one kid he has to eat chicken breasts and broccoli while the rest of the family gobbles pizza. As children segue into adolescence, he added, they can do more on their own. For behavioral therapy, the plan suggests starting with groups such as Weight Watchers or Take Off Pounds Sensibly that offer support, education and accountability and allow parents and children to work together. "These are very low-cost alternatives where people can come in every week," he said, "but they have to be willing to work." If those don't provide suitable results, parents can opt for more intense group sessions run by trained weight-loss professionals.

Bariatric surgery, Kirschenbaum said, may be a viable option for certain kids and teens, although it's not a decision to enter into lightly. Most clinics require patients to meet parameters such as being quite overweight and providing proof they've tried other weight-loss methods. Support -- before and after surgery -- and behavior modification are also essential components.

How should parents approach the list? Kirschenbaum says they shouldn't go it alone because navigating the steps may prove intimidating and frustrating. "They should take it to their primary care physicians and get some help in making sense of it," he said. It works in reverse, too -- healthcare professionals can show it to their patients to begin a discussion about weight loss. "You should talk about it, see what you think. If you don't set a target for something, you're not going to reach it."

Expert Opinion: Educating kids about nutrition, foods is first line of defense

By Tom Valeo, Times Correspondent

ST. PETERSBURG — As a teacher, advocate and parent, Julie Ryczek has spent a quarter-century on the front lines in the war against childhood obesity.

Ryczek, who teaches fifth grade at Bay Point Elementary School in St. Petersburg, recently was lauded by Gov. Charlie Crist as the Point of Light for Fitness/Nutrition Awareness Month, recognizing her tireless efforts to promote wellness.

She serves on the Governor's Council on Physical Fitness, and her students have participated in the Governor's Fitness Challenge and other programs designed to promote a healthy lifestyle. She is also a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. She is a longtime volunteer with the Kiwanis Club, Pinellas On the Move, Children's Dream Fund, Healthy Kids Day, Save the Kids Coalition and the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Ryczek, 46, practices what she preaches. She has been a cheerleader, a gymnast and an aerobics teacher, and these days she runs competitively and organizes races.

"People might not remember my name, but they remember my passion," Ryczek said. "I love it when former students come back and say, 'You always wanted us to be healthy and heart smart.' "

Why are you so concerned about childhood obesity?

I've been an educator for 25 years, and I've watched the rate of obesity steadily rise. More than 9 million children in this country are obese — triple the number in 1989. It's going to be a catastrophe for our health care system because obesity can increase the risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, stroke, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, lots of different health conditions.

What do you do to make children aware of how they eat?

We talk about the food pyramid, and how to read nutritional labels. And I always tell the kids, "Have a great day — go out and play.'' It's silly, but they remember it.

Give an example of something that has helped to make students more aware of healthy lifestyle choices.

Today we started Fresh Fruit Friday at my school. We sold apples and bananas before and after school, and we sold out. The students were engaged in it. I want to help them to make better food choices by providing snacks that are healthy and heart smart.

Why are children today more prone to obesity?

Their portions are too large, but another problem is the food choices children make. That's why we need to educate families and children on how to make better choices.

Do you think fast food restaurants contribute to the obesity epidemic?

I'm a parent myself, so I know about the convenience of fast food, and I know that has hurt us. But the fast food companies have changed. They have healthy foods on their menu now.

They put nutritional labels in their restaurants. Some fast food restaurants have playgrounds, so physical activity is incorporated.

Which works better at getting children to change their habits — awareness or fear?

Definitely education and awareness. We start young — I want to start in preschools — because if we educate the children, they'll educate their parents.

Do you ever have moments when you feel you're really making a difference?

Every day. At a supermarket I ask, why not have apples, bananas and grapes at the checkout counter instead of candy?

When I go into convenience stores I always ask, "Do you have any fresh fruit?" But we all need to work together for change. We can make it happen. Twenty-five years ago there was an ashtray everywhere you looked. Now there are no ashtrays.

That was a societal change, and we can do the same thing with food choices. People say children won't eat health food, but they will if we just promote health and nutrition.

Facial features may predict obesity

By James Thalman
Deseret News (Salt Lake City, UT)

Facial features as a teenager could be one of the clearest predictors of adult obesity and related chronic medical conditions — including early sudden death — according to new study by a Utah State University demographer.

Reporting in the journal Demography, Eric Reither and fellow researchers Robert Hauser and Karen Swallen find that weight status measured, in this case, from high school yearbook photographs, is a significant predictor of actual obesity.

Reither, an assistant professor of sociology at USU, and his colleagues devised a scale to capture facial characteristics, such as those involving the cheek and neck, as a means of estimating body mass. The study used 3,027 randomly chosen photographs from the more than 10,000 graduates from Wisconsin's high school class of 1957, who are part of the famous Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, one of the longest sociological investigations ever undertaken. Started at University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957 as a survey of high school seniors' post-graduation plans, the WLS has evolved since into a study of the entire life course, including education, career, family, aging and retirement.

In Reither's study, those classified as overweight as high school seniors were three times as likely to be obese when interviewed in their early 50s. They also reported more health problems.

The researchers found that adolescents judged to be overweight based on the photographs were twice as likely to have died early in the study as those judged to be at a healthy weight. They were four times as likely to have died as the result of heart disease.

The findings have a number of implications, particularly in relation to the rapid increase in type 2 diabetes — the condition acquired due to poor diet and little exercise that most associated with the adult-onset type.

"The rapid increase in type 2 diabetes among children and adolescents in the U.S. is unprecedented and deeply troubling," Reither told the newspaper Friday. "It signifies that children are gaining excess weight earlier in life and to a greater extent than at any other time in our history," he said, adding that only a very small fraction of survey participants in the WLS would have suffered from childhood diabetes.

Having the facial features indicating that someone is prone to diabetes doesn't mean developing it is a given, he said. "The scientific literature is unequivocal that routine physical activity and the moderation of calorie intake can help with weight management and the prevention of many chronic diseases."

And even for people who already suffer from conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, regular exercise and dietary improvements have been shown to have very beneficial effects, Reither noted.

"The problem is that most people already know this but struggle to make the changes necessary to see real improvement," he said.

"I think it is very important to emphasize that a substantial body of research, including our own investigation, suggests that excess weight in childhood and adolescence tends to be neither temporary nor harmless," he said. "The incredible spike in type 2 diabetes among children in the U.S. highlights the importance of weight maintenance at all points in the life course, including early childhood."

Reither isn't a nutritionist or trainer, but he suggests several steps to anyone who might be borderline diabetic or is beginning a weight maintenance program:

Read "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto" by Michael Pollan. The University of California, Berkeley journalism professor cuts through the complicated and sometimes conflicting science of "nutritionism" to offer this simple mantra: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

Incorporate physical activity into daily routines. Simple measures like taking stairs, using public transportation (which often necessitates walking several blocks to the office or store) and riding a bicycle on short errands can increase both fitness and calorie expenditure.

Keep in mind that despite the relatively low prevalence of people who are overweight and obese in Utah, rates of people who are overweight and obese are on the rise in Utah just as they are nationwide.

Reither, who has a 5-year-old daughter, said parents should recognize that studies, including his own, show that being overweight in childhood and adolescence poses a considerable risk to long-term health, and even longevity (see the Web link at the end of this article as just one example of such research). Interestingly, some research, including a study he coauthored in Pediatrics suggests that the psychological and social complications of childhood obesity may be exaggerated by studies that rely on clinical samples.

This is an issue that is still unresolved in scientific literature, he said, noting that the scientific evidence is very clear that being overweight and obese at young ages can have both immediate and lifelong ramifications for physical health.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Childhood Obesity is a Form of Child Abuse

By Tommy Shook

Frederic J. Frommer Reports in the March 19 edition of The Washington Post that NFL football players were in Washington to lobby Congress to pass the FIT Kids Act. This legislation would require school districts to report on kids' physical activity levels and to provide health and nutritional education. This is being done to curb the rising childhood obesity epidemic. Approximately 15% of children in the U.S. are now classified as either overweight or obese. This figure has DOUBLED since the mid 1970's. Everywhere we are looking for someone to blame for this problem: the fast-food industry, video games, school budget crunches, etc. Children are extremely vulnerable to the effects of neglect, apathy, and poor decision making on the part of adults in our society, so all of these factors do contribute but the problem lies even deeper.

The real culprit in all of this is ourselves. We, as a society, have allowed this to happen. We are all to blame for the problem and unless we’re part of the solution…well, you know the rest of the cliché. We have created a society that favors sedentism over activity and that same ethos is impacting our kids. We have decided that children aren’t productive and valued members of society so we legislate money out of the budgets of school districts, causing administrators to make choices about where to spend their shrinking allocations. Guess what, that usually means that so-called non-essential courses are cut out. These include art, music, theatre and naturally physical education. In the same desperate attempt to stretch their budgets further, schools allow companies to place vending machines in their cafeterias and offer alternative a-la-cart items that generate more revenue for the schools. The snack machine suppliers are all too happy to oblige as it leads to increased profits. When was the last time anyone saw fruit in a vending machine? We tear down playgrounds to put up parking garages or we let them fall into such a state of disrepair that they become dangerous for kids to even play on. At home, parents allow their kids to watch television, play video games and surf the Internet for hours at a time. During those hours of television, advertising for junk food constantly bombards children. These same parents don’t require that their children get regular activity and they allow snacking and unhealthy foods for their children, usually setting the example themselves by exhibiting the same unhealthy habits. The parents, in many cases, believe that the responsibility of educating their children rests with the state. It doesn’t. It is the responsibility of parents to take an active interest in seeing to it that their children are properly educated and that education must include health and physical education.

We, as parents and citizens need to get involved. Turn off the T.V. and get your kids moving. Engage them in fun activities that promote exercise and play. Teach them the importance of healthy eating and prepare healthy meals for them. Limit their intake of junk foods. Get involved with the PTA, local school board, city counsel, etc. and become active in the decision making process. Demand that vending machines be removed and higher quality and healthier school lunches be provided. Champion the cause for physical education in schools, volunteer to coach an after school sport or activity group. Start a community project to build a playground or improve upon an existing one. We can no longer expect someone else to solve this problem, we must take action ourselves in order to give our children a healthier and happier life.

Childhood diet can determine breast cancer risk in later life

London,(ANI): Breast cancer is associated with the diet that women had when they were young, says a new study.

The study has revealed that girls’ diet and the amount of exercise they take can determine their risk of breast cancer in later life, reports the Daily Express.

An analysis of 1,146 girls from birth to age 13 linked obesity and lack of exercise to an increased risk of breast cancer.

It also highlighted a link between the disease and exposure to ‘gender-bending’ chemicals in childhood.

The study was led by Professor Jaak Janssens, president of the European Cancer Prevention Organisation, in Hasselt, Belgium.

"Breast cancer seems to originate almost entirely in childhood.

The breast is most vulnerable at the very onset of development. Further research should focus on nutrition in children and breast cancer risk to prevent the disease," the Daily Express quoted the study, as saying.

Janssens and his colleagues studied medical reports, which show a well-established link between early puberty and breast development and later breast cancer risk.

His studies the girls in his group to see what factors, including nutrition influenced early puberty development.

"Childhood obesity, lack of physical activity, high glycemic (processed) carbohydrate consumption," were among the "strongest determinants influencing the onset of puberty," the study said.n addition, it revealed a history of glandular fever might also have an influence on later risk.

And it cited ‘exposure to oestrogens’ found in plastic babies’ bottles and plastic toys as another risk factor.

The study is published in the journal Paediatrics. (ANI)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Teach A Healthy Body, Get A Healthy Mind

I thought this was interesting because this is the program I used when I taught in Missouri, and now have brought it to my school here in Tennessee.-Coach Lewis

Watch CBS Videos Online

(CBS) Over the last year, El Paso eighth grader Valerie Gomez has grown five inches and dropped 25 pounds - quite a change from when CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers first met her 18 months ago.

“I really feel that there’s a girl behind a big huge girl that I would like to show everybody else,” Valerie said a year ago.

“Last time we talked, you said there was a different girl waiting to come out,” Bowers said. “Is she coming out?”

“Yes, she is, she is,” Valerie answered. “I think she is. She’s not really here, not like all of her, but she’s coming out.” Valerie is part of "the fitnessgram," a Texas experiment that mandates daily physical education and annual fitness tests for the state's 2.4 million kids ages 8 to 18.

“Now that they have those standards, it’s like a wake-up call for them,” said George Nunez, a P.E. teacher. “That gives them an incentive to push.”

The idea was proposed in part to help combat the state's troubling childhood obesity rates, but this first-of its-kind study also set out to prove physically fit kids make for better students - and the results are in.

After just one year officials say Texas school kids are performing better on standardized tests. And as fitness rates rose, absentee rates dropped, and so did reports of discipline problems.

And there is a direct correlation between more cardiovascular activity and better grades. At the top performing schools - where at least 90 percent of the kids pass the state assessments tests - 80 percent of the students are fit. And at the poorest performing schools? Only 40 percent make the fitness grade.

Valerie said that it has changed her life. “Like last year I got tested and I saw that I did bad, and then I did it this year and I saw that I could do twice as much as I did last year,” she said. “It really brought a smile to my face.”

Texas officials are smiling too, but they're not done yet. They believe the harder they can push the kids to become more physically fit, the harder the kids will push themselves in the classroom.

Fit student, fit mind?

Study linking fitness, test scores coincides with bill that would boost physical education.
By Molly Bloom

Students who are physically fit are more likely to pass state tests and attend school regularly, regardless of their race and family income levels, a study of 2.4 million Texas students by a Dallas medical research institute shows.

The nonprofit Cooper Institute's researchers also found that fit students are less likely to get in trouble at school.

State officials seized on the findings to push for more physical education and for incentive programs that would reward students for improving their fitness.

"Now, we have hard evidence that there is a link between fitness and academic success," Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said at a news conference Monday. Nelson has introduced a bill that would increase school physical activity requirements for sixth- through eighth-graders from 30 minutes a day for four semesters to 30 minutes a day throughout middle school.

Gov. Rick Perry said he would include money in his budget for fitness incentive programs similar to workplace programs that offer gift certificates to employees who lose weight or quit smoking.

"The sooner we can apply these principles where they can make a difference, the better," Perry said.

The study findings are based on the results of cardiovascular fitness tests — a one-mile run or similar evaluation — given to third- through 12th-grade students during the 2007-08 school year. The tests were administered under a state law requiring schools to give a series of six fitness tests and report results to the state.

Cooper researchers analyzed data from 6,532 campuses, which represents about 75 percent of public schools in Texas.

Research has shown that children who are Hispanic or African American, or who come from low-income families tend to have higher levels of physical inactivity and obesity, putting them at higher risk of developing such health problems as diabetes and heart, joint and bone diseases.

Low-income students in Austin tend to be less fit than students from wealthier families. And Austin's Hispanic students tend to be less fit than students of other races, according to state data.

State figures also show that the scores of low-income, African American and Hispanic students lag behind those of students overall on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.

But even after accounting for poverty, race and ethnicity, and for the relative sizes of various schools, Cooper researchers found a strong connection between the cardiovascular fitness of students and their TAKS performance. They also found connections between students' fitness levels and a school's average daily attendance.

Students with higher fitness levels were also less likely to be disciplined for drug, alcohol, violence and truancy violations.

Cooper researchers have submitted their study to the Journal of the American Medical Association for peer review and publication. Researchers said journal rules bar them from releasing a complete copy of the report until it is accepted or rejected for publication.

"Exercise is fertilizer for the brain," said Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder and chairman of the institute. "Increased exercise improves cardiovascular health, and that helps the brain function more efficiently and enhances its ability to learn."