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.