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Physical Activity Rx

The effects of physical activity on children’s physical health have been researched, studied, and written about for quite some time.  Physical activity has been proven to improve children’s cardiorespiratory health, strengthen their muscles and bones, and reduce the risk of developing potential health conditions including heart disease, certain cancers, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.  But did you know that newer research indicates that physical activity can also help regulate impulsive behavior, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve cognitive performance in children and teens?  Since September is National Childhood Obesity Month, as supported by the CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity, let’s explore how schools can implement physical activity as an intervention for not only obesity, but for fostering a myriad of other physical, mental, and emotional health benefits in children.

The national recommendation is for kids over age 6 to get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day and for schools to have a comprehensive approach to physical education and activity.  Unfortunately, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), only 25% of children are getting a healthy amount of physical activity, one of the factors leading one in five kids to have obesity.  Promoting physical activity in schools can be done through community education, prioritizing physical education and recess, incorporating movement in the classrooms, and leading by example.

Community Education

Motivating and empowering students by emphasizing fun is a key component to helping students achieve healthy, life-long movement habits.  Give helpful tips on how to be active before school (walking/biking to school, morning stretches), during school (active play during recess, enthusiastic participation in PE), and after school (athletics, recreation).  Parents and guardians can also play a pivotal role in encouraging kids to be active.  Provide accessible resources for getting the entire family moving and how to set limits for sedentary screen time.

 PE and Recess Advocacy

According to the CDC, in 2017, only around half of high school students participated in PE class on a weekly basis.  It is not unusual for academics in core subjects to be prioritized over PE without understanding that studies have shown that daily school-based physical activity actually increases scores on standardized tests, improves grades, and promotes enhanced focus and attention.  Similarly, recess is essential for contributing to the 60 minutes of daily activity, providing a less structured time for free play that, according to the AAP, should not be withheld for punitive or academic reasons.

Movement in the Classroom

Collaborate with teachers on how to incorporate movement throughout the school day to re-energize, re-focus, and engage student learners in a physical way.

 Lead by Example

A school community that values physical activity fosters teamwork, builds character, and supports belonging and inclusivity.  Including school faculty and staff in physical activity clubs and programs makes them healthy role models for an active lifestyle and cultivates a spirit of camaraderie and support throughout the school.

According to the American Heart Association, “effective efforts made now will help children avoid a lifetime of chronic disease and disability.”  Whether it’s sports, PE, recess, or play, physical activity is a fundamental and treasured part of childhood and the benefits to children’s health and wellbeing are numerous and profound.  Schools can make an impact, not just in the fight against childhood obesity, but in healthy child development, improved academic success, and establishing a healthy groundwork for our students’ future.

Shop MacGill’s selection of scales and stadiometers, new products like this new and improved measuring tape, and be sure to check out this book and poster to help encourage kids to be more active.

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