Yoga isn’t just for grown ups anymore. It serves as another fun, physical activity for kids and it has mental and physical benefits. Check out some of these yoga poses in this infographic!
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Yoga isn’t just for grown ups anymore. It serves as another fun, physical activity for kids and it has mental and physical benefits. Check out some of these yoga poses in this infographic!
SPARK Teams Up with ICAN Foundation to Rush Past Childhood Obesity with New Orleans Saints Running Back Pierre Thomas
Partnership aims to decrease “screen-time” and increase physical activity both during school and after school with quality PE programming and community events
SPARK™, provider of the world’s most-researched physical education programs, is partnering with ICAN Foundation to make an immediate impact on the lives of students in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. SPARK and ICAN Foundation will work together to help schools and community centers raise funds or apply for and win grants in order to implement SPARK’s high-quality physical education curricula or afterschool program.
SHAPE America recommends that school-aged children receive at least 60-minutes of physical activity per day. This is hard to achieve if students spend most of the eight-hour school day sitting behind desks. SPARK fights this sedentary school model by making classroom instruction, PE classes and after school programs more physically active. Similarly, the increased amount of time youth spend using electronics is impeding on physical activity after school and on the weekends. Through its community programs and initiatives, ICAN Foundation is helping create more active lifestyles to demonstrate how being active can be fun and rewarding.
“After learning about the similarities of our organizations and the fact that SPARK is the number-one research-based health organization in our country, I knew a partnership was necessary,” said Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back and founder of ICAN Foundation. “This will be a great opportunity for everyone involved, especially the students.”
“Working with ICAN Foundation is the perfect marriage of ideas for SPARK,” said Paul Rosengard, executive director of SPARK. “With the foundation’s deep community connections in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi, and SPARK’s 25 years of experience in schools nationwide, we make a great team. With a joint goal of increasing the amount of physical activity youth receive every day, we know that together we can make an impact on those communities.”
How Can You Help?
Together, ICAN and SPARK will implement research-based programing to help combat childhood obesity in Illinois, Louisiana and Mississippi. Your support, partnership, or donation can assist us in our efforts. Please contact us to learn more and support the effort to combat childhood obesity.
Dr. Kymm Ballard
SPARK Partnership Development Manager
About ICAN Foundation
ICAN Foundation was founded by Pierre Thomas, New Orleans Saints running back, in response to the ongoing problem with childhood obesity. ICAN Foundation was established to prevent and educate the children and their parents about the seriousness of childhood obesity in the United States. www.believeican.org
SPARK is a collection of research-based Physical Education, After School, Early Childhood, and Coordinated School Health programs for educators serving Pre-K through 12th grade students. Since 1989, SPARK has provided curriculum materials, teacher training, and consultation to over 100,000 teachers and youth leaders, representing many thousands of schools, organizations, and agencies worldwide. SPARK also helps educators find physical education grants. For more information on SPARK, visit www.sparkpe.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-SPARK-PE.
Beyond PB & J: 5 Healthy Back-to-School Lunch Ideas
Packing a lunch for your child can feel monotonous at times, and by the second month of school, you may feel like you are out of fun, healthy, and creative ideas. Still, sending your child off to school with a homemade lunch ensures that his or her belly will be filled up with good-for-you ingredients to fuel all the learning and playing that happens in class and in physical education.
If you feel stuck in the peanut-butter-and-jelly school lunch rut, take a look at these healthy options instead.
Think outside the typical fare and let your kids create their own mini sandwiches with a variety of goodies, including:
You can even add in some veggies, like lettuce and tomato, to give their lunch some added flavor. Add in some apple slices with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for dessert. The awesome thing about homemade “Lunchables” is that the combinations and ingredient options are endless!
Chicken Noodle Soup
Make a wise one-time purchase of a high-quality thermos that will keep soup nice and warm until the lunch bell rings, and now healthy, convenient soup can be a regular lunchtime favorite! You can make homemade soup ahead of time on the stovetop or in the crock pot and have plenty of leftovers to last throughout the week. Use wholesome ingredients, like:
Add some whole grain crackers or a whole grain roll for dipping. Really, any soup that your child enjoys can be put inside a thermos and carted off to school.
Burritos and Wraps
If it can fit between two slices of bread, it can fit in a wrap! Try a burrito made with brown rice, black beans, fresh salsa, and a little low-fat cheese wrapped up in a whole wheat tortilla. Or go for a creative wrap with chicken, lettuce, hummus, and veggies. So many flavor combos work well wrapped up in a convenient hand-held meal. Choose the flavors your child loves the most and get creative!
Chicken nuggets: as much as kids (and let’s face it, adults) love them, their ingredients and preparation are often questionable. Even pre-made frozen nuggets are not always better than the fast-food version. Why not make some delicious homemade chicken nuggets that are far more wholesome than either of these options—and still pretty easy? We like this recipe from PBS Parents. Simply slice chicken breasts into bite-sized chunks, cover them in a yummy, crunchy mixture, and bake to perfection. In about 20 minutes, you’ll have chicken nuggets that can be munched hot or cold, for snack or lunch.
Whether you make mini pizzas specifically for lunch time or make pizza for dinner and use the leftovers for a yummy lunch, homemade pizza can be nutritious and wholesome. Try a whole wheat pizza crust topped with homemade sauce (or store-bought, but look for wholesome brands without added sugar or excess sodium), low-fat mozzarella cheese, and turkey sausage or pepperoni. Infuse your pizza sauce with chopped carrots, peas, and spinach to squeeze in extra veggies that will hardly be detected.
Do you have any creative lunch ideas to share?
September is known for back-to-school festivities and the transition into fall, but did you know that it’s also Childhood Obesity Awareness Month?
National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, initiated by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) four years ago, brings awareness and recognition to this devastating epidemic among the American youth in the hopes of ending a very real threat to the future health of millions of American children. Let’s look at some facts and some ways you can get involved.
Childhood Obesity Awareness Facts
We are grateful for this month-long promotion of awareness and action for childhood obesity, but this pressing issue should really take the spotlight all 12 months of the year.
Check out the facts:
Childhood Obesity Awareness Month was created to educate and inspire the public to take action against the childhood obesity epidemic.
How to Get Involved
Whether you’re a parent, educator, or part of the community, there’s something you can do to help. Check out these ideas:
Childhood Obesity need not rob millions of Americans of good health and good living. It can be stopped. It can be reversed. But it will take interested individuals to take action and become involved. The future of our country is at stake. The children of America need you, and while Childhood Obesity Awareness only lasts through September, it is a cause we all need to rally behind every month of the year.
With a well-rounded summer vacation ending, parents spend a lot of time getting their kids ready for school. New school supplies, haircuts, and special end-of-summer outings all play into the back-to-school routine. There are some other things that parents can do for themselves and their kids to ensure a smooth transition into the school year, too. Take a look below at few ways to get this year off to a great start in your house.
Set up a bedtime and wake-up routine in advance. If possible, it’s best to establish bedtimes and wake-up times two weeks in advance of the start of school. By the time the first school bell rings, kids will already be on the right sleeping schedule and it will be one less worry for your family.
Get to know new teachers. There will be open houses, orientations, and other meet-and-greet options at the beginning of the school year, but none will give you the chance to spend some quality time getting to know your kids’ teachers. Try to find a few minutes before or after school to connect one-on-one with the teachers. At the very least, send an introductory email that includes how you can help during the school year, however big or small.
Plan healthy lunches and snacks. The better you plan out the meals in your home, the healthier choices you will make for your kids. When you pack protein-rich snacks and lunches, balanced with fruits, vegetables, and other wholesome items, you ensure that your children will have the energy and brainpower to make it through their school days.
Organize clothing. Of course you will need to donate or otherwise get rid of the clothing that your kids have outgrown, but you should also take the time to carefully organize what is left. From there, decide what items you may need more of before school begins.
Set up a staging area. Find a central spot to store everything related to school, including backpacks, upcoming outfits, and a dry erase calendar with family schedules. Try to keep this area free of clutter and other non-school items so that you can find what you need, when you need it—and quickly. Have the kids help you stock it with school-related items and keep it clean and functional. Find some inspiration here.
Update medical records. Most schools will let you know if your shot records are out of date, but why not go beyond that? Make sure teachers and administrators have a complete list of any medical concerns regarding your kids, including allergies. You will also want to be sure that all emergency contacts are up to date.
Talk to your kids about bullying. Research shows that one in three kids experience bullying at some point in their school career—and in the increasingly digital world, the consequences can be extreme. Make sure your kids understand the right way to treat their peers, and when to speak up if they see someone else being bullied. Also make sure they know when to come to you if they feel they are being bullied.
Ask your kids about their concerns. The start of school is exciting, but can also bring some anxiety—especially when it comes to the unknown. Take a few minutes to ask your kids what they are most looking forward to during the school year, and what things may be worrying them. By giving them a forum to express their concerns, you can help them work through any worries in advance of school starting and clear up any issues that could lead to a bumpy start to the year.
SPARK celebrates 25!
By Jim Sallis
It’s exhilarating to celebrate the 25th year of SPARK. In 1989 we had big ambitions for our new NIH grant. We wanted to define what health-related physical education is, comprehensively evaluate a program that we designed to meet that vision, and then encourage schools to adopt the program so kids could be healthier. I could not have imagined where those ideas have led by 2014. I am very proud to be part of the SPARK story, because SPARK has improved the physical activity, health, and quality of life for millions children and adolescents over the past 25 years.
The research teams worked hard on the SPARK and M-SPAN studies that produced the original curricula, training, and support model and materials. But there are numerous successful research programs that never have any impact in people’s lives. What makes SPARK different is the staff, led by Paul Rosengard. Paul and the staff not only share the vision of improving children’s health through physical activity, but they have built an organization that brings the joy of SPARK to about 1.5 million young people every day. I use “joy” of SPARK deliberately, because the first data we collected in a pilot study were enjoyment ratings of SPARK PE classes. We were pleased that the fifth graders chose “smiley faces” almost all the time for all the class activities. Delivering fun has been our job at SPARK ever since.
At 25, SPARK as an organization is now an adult. The staff have high level skills and are dedicated to doing a great job at customer service. We have created a national network of trainers, and the feedback from staff development sessions continues to be consistently enthusiastic. We take responsibility for updating, expanding, and improving programs and products. Like most young adults, SPARK is a sophisticated user of technology. Our video group has produced hundreds of videos that help instructors deliver great physical activity programs. All materials are now available online. I am amazed that teachers now can take all of SPARK out on the field with iPads. That is a real revolution in physical education. SPARK is even doing some traveling, growing rapidly in India and China. I’m confident SPARK will continue to evolve and innovate so we can get better at delivering great instruction to teachers and great physical activity to students.
As long as our schools want children to be active and healthier, we will keep delivering the joy of SPARK.
James F. Sallis, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor of Family and Preventive Medicine Chief,
Division of Behavioral Medicine. http://behavioralmedicine.ucsd.edu/
University of California, San Diego
SPARK staff celebrates 25 years at the Annual Trainers Meeting in June 2014
Summer break is a great time to recharge before the upcoming school year, but can also cause some problems if it isn’t approached with a plan in mind. Research has found that kids gain weight twice as quickly during the summer than the school year, and some academic regression can also take place while on that blissful summer break.
Planning activities such as exercising, to keep your kids physically, mentally and emotionally sharp over summer break will make those months that much more enjoyable for your family, and will really make a positive difference when the school year comes back around.
Here are a few ways to have your most active, fulfilling summer break yet:
How do you keep your family from falling into unhealthy habits during summer break?
Physical Activity School Score (PASS)
Why it’s Important that School Programs Provide and Promote Physical Activity
Regular physical activity is extremely important for children’s growth, motor skill and physical fitness development, and current and future health. Being physically active in childhood also provides a solid base for continuing to be physically active in adulthood. The 2008 National Physical Activity Guidelines recommend children engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate and vigorous physical activity daily, with at least three days per week providing muscle and bone strengthening activities. Unfortunately many children do not meet these national physical activity recommendations–especially on school days.
Physical education and recess (at elementary schools) typically provide some opportunities for physical activity at school, but they are often not scheduled frequently enough or facilitated in ways that fully engage all children. Many elementary schools in the USA do not have certified instructors to teach PE, and sometimes schools offer no structured physical education at all. Even in classes taught by PE specialists, research shows that children are sometimes active only about one-third of PE lesson time. As well, not all schools provide recess daily and sometimes children are kept from recess periods for academic or disciplinary reasons. Thus, in addition to the need for quality physical education and recess, other opportunities for physical activity should be made available throughout the day (e.g., classroom activity breaks, before and after school programs, and opportunities to walk, bike, and skate to and from school)
PASS: A Tool to Assess Physical Activity Opportunities at School
Many parents, School Board and PTA members, and school administrators have never been educated about the need for children to engage in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and they are frequently unaware what quality physical activity programs at schools look like. Meanwhile, numerous research studies have identified specific evidence-based practices that are more likely engage children in physical activity at schools. To help advocate for physical activity programs at schools and provide information about these evidence-based practices to elementary school administrators, teachers and parents, Active Living Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation sponsored us to create an on-line, interactive educational tool. To do so, we developed the Physical Activity School Score (PASS).
PASS is an 8-item questionnaire that allows respondents to assess various aspects of the main sources of physical activity at an elementary school. PASS increases awareness of evidence-based practices by providing feedback immediately after a response is made to each item. Following the last item, respondents are provided with an overall school score, and an opportunity to see how their school compares to other schools on each item and overall. PASS also provides easy links to online information to evidence-based school physical activity practices.
How Well Does Your School Score?
PASS takes about five minutes to complete. We hope that you get in the PASSing zone and try it out to see how well your school scores compared to the research-based criteria. Additionally, we hope you will deliver information about PASS to your friends, school board members, the PTA, and the parents of all he kids you want to help become active.
To learn more about PASS and to evaluate an elementary school near you go to:
Here you can:
- See how PASS works
- Use PASS to assess an individual elementary school
- Download the “Pass Background and Technical Manual”
Thom McKenzie, PHD, Professor Emeritus, School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences, San Diego State University
Monica Lounsbery, PHD, Associate-Vice Provost, University of Nevada, Las Vegas
For 25 years, SPARK has made it our commitment to reduce childhood obesity. Follow us on our journey back to where it all began. Without you, this wouldn’t be possible, so thank you for all the support you have provided to help us achieve our dreams!
Hiking can be a great way to spend some quality time with your family, with nature, and with your exercise program, too. Day hikes are the best way to start hiking, and this article will show you how to get out there on that first trail.
Strap on your pack and lace up your shoes—it’s time to take a hike!
Day hikes may sound like a walk in the park, and for some trails, you can get away with just your walking or everyday athletic shoes.
For others, you’ll want a pair of sturdy hiking or trail shoes. What to look for:
Think in layers, especially if starting in the early morning. Avoid cotton and go for light, breathable materials that wick away sweat. Wool or performance athletic socks keep your feet comfortable and dry all day.
A hat is an excellent addition to your hike and can prevent sunburns.
An ordinary, run-of-the-mill backpack off the rack of the discount store certainly works (as long as it’s comfortable). Start with what you have and work up from there. Make sure that the straps don’t rub and irritate arms and shoulders.
For a day hike, common items to keep in the pack include:
You can find day hike trails at regional, state, and national parks, which are scattered all across the United States. You can also find trails near just about any location using an online service like trails.com or everytrail.com.
The American Hiking Society can help you find trails and hiking events in your area and sponsors National Trails Day each year with many parks, trails, and hiking groups across the country. It’s usually held in early June.
Food and water
A day on the trail is thirsty business and works up quite an appetite, too. For a day hike, you can pack a “sack lunch”—just avoid anything with mayonnaise or other foods prone to spoilage. Sure, you could cool it with a cold pack, but only if you don’t mind the extra weight.
Pack something salty, like nuts or pretzels, as a way of replenishing your body’s salts. Pack some sweet fruit or fresh veggies, too, to help add to your water intake.
Avoid sugary drinks, energy drinks, milk, or caffeinated drinks. That pretty much leaves you with the hiker’s friend, water. You’ll need at least 1 liter per person, two if the weather is hot and dry. Most adults will most likely need two, regardless of the weather. It really depends on the severity or difficulty of the trail, the length of your hike, how strenuously you are hoofing it down the trail, and the temperature of the day. It’s better to err on the side of caution and pack more than you think you might need, rather than be caught thirsty and dry on the trail.
Enjoying the protected spaces in our beautiful country comes with responsibility. There are some common-sense rules all hikers must follow to keep the trail in good condition and be conscientious of others—and that includes the plants and animals.
Leave only footprints and take only pictures and journal notes—not rocks, flowers, or critters. Likewise, pack it in, pack it out—leave no trace that you were there.
Keep to the right. Just as on the road, when approaching another group of hikers, keep to the right side of the trail to allow everyone room to pass. In narrow areas where passing is impossible, the group closest to, or in, the narrow passage has the right-of-way.
Stay on the trail. Never venture off the marked trail very far. Not only can you get lost easier, but the trail is there for a reason. It was put where it is to allow us to enjoy the space without eroding it.
Obey all signs and warnings. Keep your eyes up and stay aware of any signage on the trial.
Day hiking is a rewarding, enjoyable, and healthy experience, especially with your family in tow! One word of caution: Once you hit the trail, you may discover a family activity that is highly addictive.
Go take a hike!