Posts Tagged ‘Physical Activity for Children’


Keep Kids Active With These Healthy Gift Ideas

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Unfortunately, it’s a fact of life that your children are likely to become less active throughout the winter months. From the end of October to the beginning of the New Year, candy, and treats means that unhealthy indulgence increases, while physical activity levels decrease.

Fortunately, with the right stimuli, most children love staying active, and this time of year is the perfect opportunity to introduce gifts that will encourage them to embrace a healthier lifestyle. This holiday season, consider giving your children a gift that facilitates active play. After all, learning to enjoy this kind of gift in the early years provides crucial building blocks for the future, and physical competence is ideal for building self-esteem at any age.

kid playing

Whatever their interests, here are some of our suggestions for healthy holiday gifts that will keep your children’s minds and bodies in action.

1. Interactive Video Games

In general, medical experts have been critical of video games because of their tendency to promote a sedentary lifestyle. However, the world of video games has come a long way over the decades – evolving from stationary hand-held devices, to active and engaging technology that relies upon physical motion and interactivity. Some studies have even suggested that certain video games, such as options for the Wii, or Xbox Kinect, allows individuals to access the same level of moderate-intensity activity that they would get from going to the gym.

Keep in mind that children are more likely to gravitate towards standard video games than physically active options, so if you do purchase a console for your kids, you’ll need to supply them with plenty of active games, and monitor their usage. While active games are better than sedentary options, don’t rely on them exclusively to promote healthier activities for children.

2. Toys Designed To Get Children Outside

One of the best things you can do for your children today is encourage them to spend more time outdoors, and less time cooped up in front of the television. Christmas provides a great opportunity to purchase a few special gifts that focus entirely on your child getting outdoors to make the most of their new toy. For example:

  • A toboggan can be the ideal choice for the winter if you’re in a location that experiences a lot of snow. Not only is it exhilarating, but it’s great for fitness, and a fantastic way for families to bond in a group activity together.

  • Kites can be a great solution for getting kids outdoors, because they work regardless of the season. All you need is a bit of wind, and you’ll be good to go.

  • Bikes and scooters encourage children to engage in a new hobby, and increase the chances that they’ll be happy to take trips using physical activity, rather than relying upon you to take them everywhere in your car.

  • Kids love to jump, so if you want to keep your little ones bouncing their way to a healthier lifestyle, a miniature trampoline for the backyard could be the perfect solution

Don’t forget, even if your children aren’t on a sports team yet, having sports equipment available such as a basketball and hoop, or a goal for soccer, could encourage them to practice their skills and create their own games. The right sports not only keep children active, but help them to develop their coordination skills, and self-confidence.

3. Personalized Sports Equipment

One great way to get your children interested in a more active lifestyle this holiday season, is to personalize the gifts you give them, to ensure that each item resonates with your child on a deeper level. For instance, if your child loves the idea of riding his bike, but complains about it being boring or scary, you could enhance the fun with cool helmet covers or light decals.

If your child has expressed interest in a certain sport or activity in the past, you can sign them up for lessons with a professional tutor or coach, and make sure that you also give them all of the equipment that they need to pursue their interest. For example, if your child wants to join a football team, get them personalized equipment with their name written on the shirt, or a signed ball from their favorite player. If they’ve shown interest in karate, buy them their first belt and karategi.

Encouraging your children’s interest in a particular sport not only helps them improve their health, but offers them the opportunity to build greater confidence and self-discipline.

4. Traditional Solutions for Younger Kids

If you think your child is too young to fully grasp the rules of sports, remember the benefits of art, dance, puzzles, and traditional toys. For instance, art and dance are great for helping children to express themselves, increase their focus, and develop hand-eye co-ordination. Similarly, though building blocks and puzzles don’t involve a great deal of physical activity, they do help children to enhance their fine motor skills and develop their minds.

Remember that encouraging your children to adopt a healthier lifestyle isn’t just about physical activity, it also means advancing their minds, evolving their understanding of the world, and helping them to pursue healthy goals.

Conclusion

As a parent your goal should be to encourage your children into remaining as active and engaged as possible – no matter the weather. Healthy, physically active kids are more likely to develop life-long healthy habits, as well as being more academically motivated, successful, and alert.

Unconventional Physical Education Activities

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

In the United States, students and teachers are pretty familiar with the old stand-by PE games like tag, tetherball, kickball, dodge ball, and capture the flag. However, in some parts of the U.S., as well as internationally, there are physical education programs that incorporate non-traditional activities into their PE lesson plans. Instead of the typical jumping jacks, push-ups, and laps around the track, these programs are introducing students to a whole new side of physical activity and proper nutrition. Below we’ll take a look at a few of the uncommon PE games and physical activities that are being implemented today.

Yoga

The health benefits of yoga have been receiving increased attention in Western culture over the past several years, with the most recent popularity boom starting in 2001. Heralded for its meditative, relaxation, and strength-building benefits, yoga was first offered in North America for high school PE credit in Nova Scotia. Since then, several schools have begun to offer yoga as part of their standard physical education curriculum, although not everyone has been receptive. In Encinitas, California, concerned parents brought a lawsuit against the Encinitas Union School District with fear that teaching yoga to children might spread the message of Eastern religion. However, students who participate in yoga while in school are finding that the benefits extend to other areas of their academic lives, such as test preparation and focus in the classroom.

Tai Chi

Students of all ages, from elementary through college, are reporting increased levels of stress in their daily educational routines. Densely packed academic schedules, increasing workloads, and tougher standardized testing requirements have all added to the pressure that students face. In an attempt to combat these increased stress levels, some PE instructors are incorporating tai chi into their lessons plans. This ancient Chinese martial art has been practiced for centuries for its ability to oppose certain chronic conditions, lower stress levels, and improve one’s overall mental health.

Hiking

In rural and mountainous areas, hiking is being incorporated into the physical education curriculum. In some cases, the physical activity of hiking is included as part of an overarching lesson on wilderness education and outdoor survival. Hiking affords students the chance to explore the outdoors in a way that promotes interaction with nature and benefits their physical health. Hiking may also be combined with other outdoor activities such as kayaking, canoeing, or rock climbing.

Martial Arts

Classroom discipline can be a major issue in schools, particularly with younger students at the elementary level. In an attempt to enhance student’s focus and increase order within the classroom, various martial art disciplines are being taught to physical education students. Styles vary, from wrestling to karate to judo, providing students with basic self-defense skills through physical activity. Additionally, as UCLA Martial Arts Program Directr Paul McCarthy notes, “Martial arts can teach you about culture, history, society, friendship, loyalty, dedication, and so much more.

Dance

From ballroom to hip-hop to ballet, dance has been playing an increased role in physical education programs around the world. The physical health benefits of dance are many: improved coordination, increased cardiovascular capacity, weight loss, and enhanced muscle tone and strength are just a few. In some programs, PE instructors are also teaching cultural and traditional folk dance in order to combine physical activity with historical education.

SPARK Early Childhood Selected as 2011 Head Start Body Start Preferred Provider!

Friday, April 8th, 2011

Good news for all Head Start Centers: SPARK has been selected as a 2011 Preferred Provider for Head Start Body Start!

Nearly $2 million in Play Space Grants will be awarded to Head Start Centers across the country this year by HSBS to improve their outdoor play spaces.  Grant recipients will be able to purchase uniquely designed value-added packages created by the HSBS Preferred Vendors at a minimum discount of 20% off the retail price.

SPARK has included five (5) Value-Add Equipment Packages for Grant Applicants to choose from. Each equipment package includes a 25% discount from catalog list price & free shipping!

Please contact us with any questions about these equipment packages, and we look forward to continuing our work with Head Start Centers to support physically active and healthy lifestyles among Head Start programs nationwide.

Why Choose SPARK?
  • SPARK equipment packages have been selected by content experts specifically to meet the developmental needs of children ages 3-5 years old.
  • The items are age-appropriate and are designed to enable success for all skill and ability levels.
  • Combined with the Head Start Body Start program, SPARK’s specially designed equipment packages will increase physical activity, leading to the physical, cognitive, social and emotional development of young children, with the long-term goal of reducing childhood obesity.

______________________________________________________________

Package 1: SPARK “Shining Star” Outdoor Equipment $3,505.63

Package 2: SPARK “FUNdamentals” Equipment Package $1,411.30

Package 3: SPARK “Dance with Me” Equipment Package $393.14

Package 4: SPARK “Have a Ball” $788.05

Package 5: SPARK “Balance & Scoot” Package $1,275.93

Next Steps:

Contact the SPARK office at:

800-SPARK-PE (772-7573)  or spark@schoolspecialty.com.

Let’s Move! Celebrates 1-Year Anniversary

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

People often ask “What is Let’s Move! really doing?”  Well, as the First Lady has often said:  “We won’t solve our problems just by passing laws in Washington.  We know that stopping childhood obesity isn’t the job of just the government, or doctors, or community organizations.  We all have a role to play.”

Let’s Move! is an initiative [ih-nish-ee-uh-tiv] (Noun: an introductory act or step; leading action).  Initiatives can raise awareness and with awareness comes a call to action.  The First Lady and the Let’s Move! Initiative have been instrumental in several big steps so far, including:

  • Helping to organize communities to be the driving force behind Let’s Move! Where many Faith groups from across the country have committed to walking 3 million miles and hosting 10,000 community gardens or farmers markets.
  • Promoting health and wellness to reduce chronic conditions
  • Creating a new Prevention and Public Health Fund to build healthier communities, including preventing childhood obesity
  • Mandated that new health insurance plans to cover screening for childhood obesity and counseling from doctors without a co-pay or any other payment
  • Issued a call to action for healthier options in schools and other sites where children attend
  • Teamed up with athletic organizations including the National Basketball Association, the US Tennis Association and the National Football League, where some of our nation’s favorite athletes are working to inspire kids to play sports and get active
  • Helped to launch the new President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition. .
  • Just last month, Walmart, one of the nation’s largest retail stores, announced a new Nutrition Charter designed to bring healthier and more affordable foods to the 140 million customers that shop at their stores each week.

Let’s Move! has built momentum over the last year and we in communities need to be ready to build on these outstanding efforts in the year ahead.

-Kymm Ballard, SPARK Partnership Development Specialist

11 Tips to Help Decrease Inappropriate Behavior

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Is it true what they say about that “one bad apple in the bunch”? We all know there are many different kinds of apples in our classes, and while some may be a little sweeter than others, they all contribute to a healthy bushel. Here are eleven tips to help decrease inappropriate behavior and help keep your physical education class as sweet as possible:

  1. Engage children in activity as soon as possible by keeping instructions short and concise.
  2. Remember to “teach from the perimeter.” If indoors, keep your “back to the wall.” Move to visit all children without turning your back on any.
  3. Use a musical activity when children’s attention becomes low and there is a need for a quick distraction enhanced with music.
  4. Children covet individual attention. When a child is modeling desired behaviors, say the child’s name for all to hear when providing positive and specific feedback.
  5. Provide individual feedback when the class is engaged in activity rather than calling attention to the negative behavior for all to hear.
  6. Use proximity control. Move closer to the child.
  7. To ensure the safety of all, if a child is endangering others have the child stand next to you and observe others on task. When you see the child is ready to participate safely, get the child engaged as soon as possible.
  8. Minimize distractions.
  9. When outdoors, strive to keep the children’s backs to the sun.
  10. If another class is present, position your class to face a different way.
  11. When using manipulatives begin with exploration time for children to just play. Remember to have children place manipulatives on the floor when giving instructions.

The Campaign to Exterminate Physical Activity

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

I was taking a delightful bike ride on a sunny but brisk December day in San Diego, and I actually passed a father and son who were riding electric bikes (no pedaling). Just a couple of minutes later I saw a family zipping around like robots on Segways. Those images kind of spoiled my ride—for two reasons.

First, instead of encouraging their kids to be active, these parents were promoting the easy joys of slothfulness.  I’m sure they thought they were being good parents by having fun with their children, getting them outdoors, and introducing them to cool technology.  Here we are, 10 years into the New Millenium, and teaching your child to avoid physical activity is still considered good parenting.  With childhood obesity constantly in the media, why aren’t parents, as well as health professionals, public officials, school officials, and people in general, more concerned about making sure kids get enough physical activity?

That brings me to the second thought that spoiled my ride.  The campaign to exterminate physical activity!  Since the dawn of humanity people have been dreaming of ways to reduce their walking, get someone else to do the heavy work, and avoid sweating.  For millennia it was pretty hard to avoid physical activity and stay alive.  But in the past couple of hundred years, humanity’s dreams have come true.  One of the main motivations of the Industrial Revolution was to supply people with the Labor Saving Devices they craved, and gazillions of dollars have been made in the process.  Technological innovations have taken physical activity out of most work, transportation, and household tasks.  Our homes and offices are filled with Labor Saving Devices, from the electric can opener to the computer to the car.

The extermination has taken about 200 years, but it is almost complete.  Now, efforts to finally eradicate physical activity are getting a bit ridiculous.  Is it so onerous to walk a quarter mile that you would pay $5000 for a Segway?  Are people so committed to laziness that they will ride a bike that does the pedaling for them?  Is there any longer a problem of too-much-activity that needs a solution?

What all this means is that we have a lot of work to do.  Physical activity has been mainly exterminated, to catastrophic effect for our physical and mental health and medical costs.  But still, people buy any gizmo that promises to squeeze the last few minutes of activity from their day.  The Fitness Revolution of the 1980s did not create a culture of activity.  Parents are not teaching their children to enjoy movement, dance, games, and sport as much as they need to.  Appreciating new gizmos seems to take precedence.

Those of us who want to create better health through more activity continue to face big challenges.  Looks like my resolution for 2011 will be to get a little better at encouraging people to enjoy being active.

Jim Sallis

www.drjamessallis.sdsu.edu

Help Your Family Have a Healthy Holiday Season

Monday, December 13th, 2010

The holiday season is here and with it come Christmas parties, New Year’s celebrations…and food, food, and more food! Not to mention that when the temperatures drop and the sunset comes early, it gets harder and harder to make sure you (and your family) are getting the exercise you need to stay healthy through the holidays.

Keeping up with healthy habits has benefits for your whole body – like helping to avoid holiday weight gain, helping to fend off holiday stress and fatigue, and helping to keep your immune system strong. Many people give up on healthy habits during the holidays but with these tips you can teach your children how to stay healthy during this busy time of year.

Tips for healthy holiday eating:
  • Feed your children – and yourself – a light meal or snack before going to a holiday party. It’s harder to avoid overeating when you’re overly hungry.
  • Set a good example for children by eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains with meals or as snacks.
  • Offer to bring a healthy, low-calorie dish to holiday parties so you’ll know that at least one healthy item will be available.
  • Teach your children to eat smaller portions of food, especially at a buffet, where they may want to try everything. Help them choose the items they want to try the most, and eat a small portion of each.
  • Sodas and other sweet drinks contain a lot of calories and many contain caffeine. For a healthier version of “soda” mix 100% fruit juice with club soda or seltzer.
  • The holiday season can keep you extra busy but try to avoid fast food – it may be handy, but is often high in fat and low in nutrition.
Tips for physical activity:
  • Hula Hoop, Jump Rope: If Rocky can jump rope for hours, it’s got to be good, right? Grab a few hula hoops and jump ropes, clear out one of your rooms, and turn on some fast-paced music. Your kids will love learning new skills, and you’ll love getting their heart rates up! You can even hold a tournament or a competition to make it more interesting.
  • Dance: In First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, she encourages parents and children to get up and dance. Not only can you learn valuable moves on the dance floor, but merely dancing around for an hour can burn upwards of 200 calories! Take a leaf out of Michelle’s book: turn on some holiday music and dance around the house.
  • Active Video Games: Traditional video games, albeit fun and endlessly entertaining, are extremely sedentary activities and should be limited to just an hour or two a week. The new, active video games incorporate fitness, coordination, and even dance skills! Consider Dance Dance Revolution, Wii Bowling, Playstation Move or Xbox Kinect next time your kids want to spend hours in front of the television on a cold or rainy day.
  • The Gift that Keeps Giving: Give gifts that encourage physical activity, like active games or sporting equipment. Santa knows that even the simplest presents, like a ball or hula hoop, help support activity and leave open endless possibilities for fun family games.

Study: Physically Active Kids Perform Better Academically

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

kids-in-schoolFor children, it’s important to begin a regular routine of healthy exercise as early as possible to help them perform at their best. However, such activity is a means of improving more than just the body through building muscle strength and endurance. In fact, many studies are now showing that children who are physically active also perform better in the classroom.

Over the past decade, the positives of physical education are helping students and teachers to feel good about taking a break from the usual classroom environment and get moving. The original SPARK study is still the only NIH study to positively link physical education and academics and conclude that more time spent in physical education class did not result in a decrease in academic performance (SPARK study in Research Quarterly – Click Here).

Below is a short list of sources that have linked staying in shape with staying ahead in the classroom. And for more resources (articles/publications/webinars) on the link between physical activity and academic performance you can Click Here .   (Image Source)

1. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education notes a 2001 California Department of Education study that correlates school performance with maintaining good physical condition. Student standardized achievement test scores were compared to the state required fitness test, known as the FitnessGram.  Pupils being evaluated underwent the scrutiny of this test, as provided by the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research. Different traits such as aerobic capacity, body composition, flexibility and more were measured. Results of the study found a direct relationship between physical fitness and improved academic achievement, especially in the area of mathematics. Findings also suggested that family involvement in physical activity with children outside of school helps to reinforce and foster life-long fitness habits.

2. For standardized math and English tests, studies have shown that children achieve more when they are able to pass a number of fitness tests. This finding published in the School of Journal Health studied a group of students between the 2004 and 2005 school year. Pupils performed better in both reading and math when they were also involved in ongoing athletic activities, regardless of gender or ethnicity. The idea that physical exertion will detract from a student’s studies is quickly becoming null and void, thanks to indicators such as these. Corresponding results help secure the belief that fitness programs may actually serve to enhance academic performance.

3. A 2005 report by the California Department of Education cites evidence that healthy, fit children are more prone to attend school and perform better than their sedentary peers. In response, the department encourages schools to make physical education an essential goal. This report expresses concern over the obesity epidemic amongst children in the United States, as well as illnesses it can cause later in life, such as heart disease and diabetes, among others. Physical education allows students to improve their bone density and motor skills, as well as boosts self esteem through exercise. The report further calls for legislation to continue ongoing support of health programs and improved nutrition for students while on campus. Emphasis on making sure that physical education teachers have the ability to give students the highest quality experience available is provided. Textbooks are available to help outline the skills that students should be learning from such programs.

4. The American College of Sports Medicine noted a 2006 study that supports the relationship between increased activity in children and higher grades. Children who participated in hearty exercise for no less than 20 minutes, three or more days a week, exhibited higher grades.  Those involved in less strenuous activities for 30 minutes over five days per week did not achieve the same improved grade results. Researchers advise the incorporation of strenuous physical activities into school programs and recommend teachers and parents assist students in balancing fitness programs alongside academic pursuits.

5. The California Journal of Health Promotion published findings in 2006 regarding explanations as to why physical education and academic achievement are associated.  A study was cited by California State University researchers who compared differences between schools that made fitness a priority and those that did not. When standardized pupil test scores were analyzed, it was determined that the leading schools also had formal, structured physical education programs based on the State Board of Education guidelines. Conversely, the lowest academic performing schools did not even have gym teachers.  The case for preserving physical education programs during school cutbacks is made, as well as the case for improving children’s health prospects in the future by remaining active.

6. A 2010 report in Science Daily cited a medical study presented at a conference for the American Heart Association that links physical fitness to better school performance.  For students who remain fit throughout their schooling years, there is a better chance of increased academic achievement. Standardized tests for students over time show that the students who perform best do so when they remain fit across different grade levels. Students should receive at least an hour of physical activity per day, with curriculum appropriate for their age group. Research indicates that healthier, happier children become fit adults as a result.

Conclusion

With the dangers of sedentary lifestyles becoming more apparent, it’s no wonder that exercise is being championed for all school-age students. Multiple scientific studies prove that there is more to academic performance than just book learning. The amount of exercise pupils receive in school can create positive habits that serve to compliment academic achievement. Promoting physical health in childhood can only serve to benefit our youth with the outcome of healthier bodies accompanied by brighter minds.

Schools Add Skateboarding to Kids Classes

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Not too long ago, schools and city councils across the United States were at odds with skateboarders. We’ve all seen the signs banning skateboarding from school and public premises: “Absolutely No Skateboarding,” “No Skateboarding, Biking or Rollerblading Allowed,” etc. Some places, such as Center City Philadelphia, have gone so far as to ban skateboarding from all public property, including sidewalks! Yet skateboarding has still remained a very popular sport amongst children and young adults. And recently, many schools have actually introduced skateboarding to their Physical Education curriculum.

No_Skateboarding3x4
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Schools across the United States are revamping their P.E. curriculum and exchanging traditional competitive team sports for more alternative and individualized sports such as skateboarding. Advocates for the new P.E. claim that sports such as skateboarding appeal to children who aren’t natural athletes and who don’t enjoy traditional competitive, full-contact sports, for instance, soccer and football. One statistic found that as few as 10% of school-aged children are natural athletes who enjoy competitive contact sports. Advocates claim that exposing these children to a sport like skateboarding promotes a more active lifestyle inside and outside of the classroom. Children who aren’t interested in competitive sports are more likely to go home and participate in a more individualized activity, like skateboarding, once they have been exposed to it in school.

There is a huge push for schools to promote active lifestyles in young children because child obesity is still a very serious concern in the United States. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia reports that almost 20% of children between the ages of 6 and 19 are considered obese. In addition, the overall child obesity rate has tripled over the last thirty years. A healthy lifestyle includes not only healthy eating habits but also regular physical activity. Because of the child obesity epidemic, many schools have introduced health classes that stress good eating habits. Children must also be taught how to integrate exercise into their daily routine. Therefore it is essential that children are introduced to a variety of sports—skateboarding included—at an early age in order to find sports that appeal most to them.

kid-with-skateboard
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This new P.E. program has been introduced to a variety of schools across the country, including schools in New Jersey, New York, California and Minnesota. It has been met with rave reviews by both P.E. instructors and students. Skateboarding has been a particularly successful part of the new program. Teachers who are in their twenties and thirties most likely grew up with skateboarding and so the program is just as exciting for young teachers as it is for students.

Most importantly, skateboarding is a great way to exercise and have fun at the same time. It has been proven to increase balance, agility, coordination, and reaction time. It specifically targets the leg muscles and core muscles. More advanced skaters who are able to perform tricks and grabs also use their arm and back muscles. Skateboarding for twenty to thirty minutes is a great form of cardiovascular activity that increases the heart rate while burning calories and developing muscle. Perhaps one of the best side effects of skateboarding that teachers have noted is improved self-esteem in children as they get better and better. Beginning students, who could barely stand on a skateboard on day one, are skating laps around the gymnasium by the end of the program. In the process of learning to skateboard, students learn that hard work and perseverance pay off.

kid-skateboarding

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One of the main drawbacks to introducing a skateboarding program to a school is the cost. Many schools have been faced with tough budgets over the last few years. And unfortunately, safely learning how to skateboard requires quite a bit of equipment: skateboards, helmets, wrist guards, elbow pads and knee pads. Skate Pass, a Colorado-based company, offers skateboarding “curriculum kits” for approximately $3,000 which include enough equipment for twenty children.  The kit includes skateboards that are specifically designed with young children in mind, and wheels that won’t mark up gymnasium floors. They also provide specific curriculums for beginner, intermediate and advanced students. Schools that have found money in their budgets and implemented a skateboarding curriculum of some kind have found that students’ reactions are incredibly positive.

Once viewed as a troublesome and meaningless activity, skateboarding is now being recognized as an engaging form of physical activity for children. It is an effective form of exercise and builds self-esteem in school-aged children. P.E. teachers are recognizing that competitive full-contact sports don’t appeal to everyone, and they are beginning to introduce alternative programs that promote individuality. Although the cost of implementing a skateboarding program is quite high, the results seem to outweigh the financial burden. Students are more engaged in physical activity, and they learn that exercise can be fun.

Exercise: The Path to a Child’s Healthy Future

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

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.

Cherie with Learn to Swim Students

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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.

Youth Sports Day 2007 - 2

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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.

sports-tball

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Boys swimming

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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.

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