The obesity epidemic among youth today only continues to escalate. Due to the increase in modern technology, more forms of entertainment involve sitting rather than moving. Children are exposed to more computers, video games, movies and television than ever before, which in turn decreases the overall time spent expending daily calories. The resulting weight gain among our youth heightens their risk for possible heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more. This makes it all the more important for children to start exercising as early as possible. Besides physical benefits, such as improved bone and muscle strength, exercise is also shown to also improve one’s emotional and psychological state.
By taking up physical exercise early in life, children have the advantage of a leaner, stronger figure, with lower risks of obesity. Running, bicycling, skating and swimming are several simple options that allow for aerobic activity, which improves overall heart strength. Stretching exercises will foster a student’s flexibility and improve the functioning of joints. Push-ups and pull-ups help build muscle strength, as well as weightlifting workouts at the school gym. Kids can get a head start in managing their physical health by choosing from a wide selection of exercise options, which will only prove more beneficial as they mature.
Students spend the majority of their school day in the classroom with limited time for physical activity. As important as it is for children to be well-rounded on subjects that increase class performance, there is another type of education that is just as important for their overall well-being. Physical education is a chance for children to put down their pencils and have fun as they work toward staying fit. It can also be the ideal outlet kids need to let loose, while providing them with lifelong benefits unlike any other in their schedule. Studies show that children who have physical outlets coupled with academics perform better in other areas of their life as well.
More schools are sharing the responsibility to encourage student fitness with their enhanced physical education programs. For example, SPARK, a well established and award-winning public health organization, is combating obesity through providing educators with research-based physical activity programs for Pre-K – 12 grade students. SPARK focuses on assisting teachers with implementing school games related to aerobics, jogging, sports and more. Teachers receive curriculum, training and equipment that outlines how to get the most out of each physical activity that their classes participate in. Emphasis is placed on proper nutrition for students, as well as the positive effects activities have on academic performance.
Schools that provide physical education for youth with an emphasis on the positive instill a lifelong motivation to stay fit. The American Heart Association recommends that children engage in a minimum of one hour of physical activity per day, and schools can easily assist in meeting that goal by providing just half of that important time. In addition, such classes help build teamwork among students and help participants find interests that they may choose to further pursue. It is important to note that studies have demonstrated that kids who are physically fit also perform better on standardized testing.
To offer the best physical education possible, schools should provide quality equipment, safe facilities and trained supervision. Teachers must be aware of the best, new teaching methods available to maintain student interest and enthusiasm. Variations of traditional games, as well as creating new athletic diversions can be introduced on a vast scale depending on age level and ability. Success and diversity are key to keeping the children involved. Skills developed during school activities may form the basis for additional physical pursuits. Most importantly, when schools make physical education a requirement for graduation, kids are guaranteed the chance to be exposed to a better sense of how to live a healthy lifestyle.
Many parents look to enroll their children in after school activities and search for the option that best suits their son or daughter’s interests. One common question is how old a child should be before engaging in certain sports or exercise. Games like flag football, soccer and t-ball are usually appropriate starting at age four, whereas gymnastics is accommodating of all age groups. Competitive activities should be reserved for the older, extroverted child. Both individual and team sports allow for motor skill development as well as promote self esteem. Starting sports at an earlier age will decrease the childhood tendency toward sedentary activities inside the home when physical alternatives are not readily available.
Establishing lifelong healthy exercise habits begins in childhood. Lack of physical activity has been correlated with the ongoing surge in obesity, as well as the development of chronic health problems. On the contrary, involving youth in both physical education as well as extracurricular sports programs is associated with increased academic success, as well as psychological and physical well being. Educators and parents alike must set the example and offer appropriate, safe programs that encourage all children, regardless of ability. The opportunity to strive towards a healthy future that includes exercise as part of the normal, daily routine will then be anticipated with ongoing enthusiasm amongst today’s youth.