Posts Tagged ‘Wellness’


What the 2016 Shape of the Nation Report Says About Recess

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

four kids playing on recess equipment

The latest Shape of the Nation report included a combination of recess and research. Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SHAPE America have poured vast amounts of time and energy into figuring out how our children can get the most out of recess.

In the U.S., two recesses rarely look the same. Only eight states have policies that require schools to offer recess, and researchers found there were no real guidelines in any part of the country. This despite the recommendations that children engage in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

With that in mind, there’s no time like the present to reexamine the way your school looks at recess. This summary of the report’s 19 strategies should serve as a good start.

Formalize the Fun

Ever heard of a recess curriculum? One of the broad strategy recommendations of the Shape of the Nation report is to make significant leadership decisions so recess becomes a priority. This doesn’t mean recess should be rigid and regimented, but it does mean your school should have a written physical education plan so all school staff and supervisors understand why daily physical activity benefits their students’ health and focus.

Sit down with teachers, parents, and students and create a set of policies to guide recess. This can involve everything from designating indoor and outdoor play spaces to figuring out how to keep students safe if a freak snowstorm hits during recess. Your strategy should include your school’s philosophy about recess, the goals it will take to get there, and who is responsible for taking on each step.

If you’re not sure where to start, the CDC has a self-assessment tool schools can use to see where they’re doing well and the areas in which they still need improvement.

From Planning to Playground

It’s time to adapt your schoolyard or indoor recess space so students benefit from your planning.

When possible, schools should provide ample play equipment. The types of equipment will vary, based on the age categories of your school. Educators should look beyond soccer balls and jump ropes and ensure their bounty of recess gear includes equipment that is inclusive for children of all ages and abilities. Consider balls of different size, textures, and color, as well as manipulative equipment that can be used by children with gross motor delays.

In addition to equipment, the report recommends creating designated physical activity zones. For example, your schoolyard could be split into three areas: one each for sports, fitness skills, and relaxation. This schoolyard division will make recess more satisfying for students and avoid the accidents that inevitably happen when two sports collide. One of your physical activity zones should also acknowledge that exercise doesn’t just come in the form of traditional sports. Drama productions, mazes, and obstacle courses can be created by more creative staff members and will serve the same positive purpose: getting children on their feet and having fun.

Finally: safety first. The Shape of the Nation report found that just under half of American schools post safety rules and guidelines for equipment, despite almost all schools having this equipment available to students. Creating an accessible list of rules and ensuring play equipment meets safety standards is an excellent preventative measure your school should take.

Activate Your Community

Everyone should be invested and engaged in making recess a success. If you laid out supervisory roles in your written recess plan, now is the time to implement them. While most schools require teachers and parents to be supervisors, less encourage them to be physical activity facilitators. Facilitators guide students through different activities, which helps reduce injury, bullying, and exclusionary behavior. While safety supervisors should be adults, physical activity facilitators can be found within your student body. Allowing older students to organize and facilitate an activity of their choice is essential in positive youth development and can create valuable peer leadership opportunities.

Tweak for Next Year

No strategy is complete without a means to assess it. The report recommends schools gather information about recess: how much intense physical activity is the average child getting, how is this affecting classroom outcomes, discipline rates, etc. Gathering this information will help you constantly refine your recess plan and provide a source of evidence if anyone ever challenges your school’s recess values.

Physical activity time is an essential part of a child’s school day. By incorporating all or some of the Shape of the Nation’s strategies, you can be sure you’re making recess the best it can be.

How Physical Education Can Help Students Beat Exam Stress

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

a high school teach helps a student during his exam

Did you know that almost a third of children in the U.S. say they have experienced symptoms of stress? This stress impacts everything from academic performance to behavior in classrooms. So, what can be done to change this, especially during high-stress times like final exams?

Physical education teachers are in a good position to help students work through anxiety and stress with activity. By introducing physical activity as a form of stress relief during exam time, students have shown improved concentration and a marked reduction in fatigue. When outside stressors affect the brain, the entire body is impacted, as well. That means, when the body feels good, the mind is likely to follow. Take a look at some of the key factors that come into play when adopting stress-reduction exercise routines into daily life.

Exercise as a Stress Reliever

In addition to being a contributor to overall health and well-being, exercise has a direct impact on the body’s ability to react positively to stressors. At any level of fitness, from beginner to intermediate, individuals can train their body to manage day-to-day stresses in a manageable fashion. What’s more, children up to age 18 need 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day to maintain high levels of health and fitness.

Some of the benefits to adapting healthy lifestyles to include daily physical fitness are:

  • Pumping up endorphins. By engaging in health-focused exercise routines, individuals are able to see increases in the level of endorphins – the brain’s feel-good hormones – produced by the body. In no time at all, these increased levels of “pleasure pangs” spill over into all aspects of life; be it relieving stress levels at home or in the workplace. Try running on the track, enjoying a brisk nature hike or even shooting a couple games of basketball with a few friends after school or during lunch to see the benefits in motion.
  • Boosting overall mood. One major benefit to exercise is an increase in self-confidence. Studies have also shown that individuals who exercise on a regular basis are less likely to develop depression and bouts of anxiety.
  • Improving sleep cycles. Don’t forget the healing and restorative power of sleep: a fully actualized and regular exercise regimen naturally tires out the body, making it more susceptible to deep sleep and the possibility of waking up more refreshed to tackle the day. This benefit in particular becomes vital when adolescents reach high school; dealing with above-average stressors, students who have more sleep perform much better in national testing.

Stress-Free PE Activities

Exercising shouldn’t be an added source of stress. Some students suffer anxiety when it comes to traditional PE activities, like laps or obstacle courses, because there is so much competitiveness, discomfort and high expectations — just like during their exams.

Make sure your PE classes provide students with a healthy break from their other school stresses with these ideas for fun and pressure-free lessons:

Freeze Dance

This fun-filled activity can be achieved by simply pressing play on a music device. Modern dance crazes like the Cha-Cha Slide, the Cupid Shuffle and Whip/Nae Nae are crowd favorites. The fun part for educators is in knowing that students have no idea they are enduring intense physical exercise while performing some of their favorite dance moves. Try adding a little extra fun to the mix by instructing kids to freeze every time the music stops.

Yoga

By integrating controlled poses, deep breathing and stretching into exercise routines, students find true inner calm with yoga. Not only does it offer immediate stress relief, but it also promotes an overall sense of well-being while lowering anxiety levels significantly. The only materials needed are a mat, a towel and some inspiration for sequences.

Ultimate Frisbee

This game has lots of twists and turns and is fun for all fitness levels. It also has the added benefit of being played outdoors, offering students a breath of fresh air. So when the weather’s good, seize the opportunity to introduce Ultimate Frisbee into your lesson plan.

It’s clear that exercise and stress relief go together. PE teachers can help students deal with their everyday stressors with activities that improve physical and emotional health. Just make sure your lesson plans don’t add to your students’ burdens by creating more risk of failure.

What are your favorite activities to help your students burn off anxiety?

Are Your Students Meeting the Physical Education Guidelines?

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

teacher marking off checklist with students in the background

By teaching young minds the proper techniques of physical fitness, educators are better able to instill valuable knowledge that will last a lifetime.

But how close are your students coming to an ideal physical education? Read on to discover the Physical Activity Guidelines (PAG) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to create the best program for your class this spring.

Emphasize Health-Related Fitness

In the world of physical fitness, two competing practices exist: health-related fitness and performance-related fitness. Performance-related fitness rewards students based on achievement of a specific task; PAG guidelines are not meant to promote this type of competitive education. Instead, a full curriculum based on health-related fitness is endorsed to teach heart-health-conscious kids.

Proper instructions for cardiovascular and muscular fitness allow students to continue to work on their health, regardless of their skill level. While an individual focused on performance-related fitness routines may develop quicker, flashier physical results, they lack proper understanding of what it takes to maintain that level of fitness throughout development.

Choose Individualized Health Goals

Not every student is at the same level of physical fitness, and they aren’t in the same developmental stages at the same time, either. That’s why instead of setting arbitrary goals, like a certain time to run a mile or a certain number of sit-ups in a row, physical education teachers should focus on customized fitness goals.

Educators can promote individualized results for each student by tailoring physical education parameters to their specific wishes and health needs. Not everybody functions the same under the same circumstances. Through proper education, teachers should communicate what questions an individual should ask themselves in order to gain perspective of their desired goal. Some of these questions include, but are not limited to:

  • How physically fit do I want to be?
  • How much weight do I want to lose and keep off?
  • How important is it to me to reduce my risk of heart disease and diabetes?

It’s vital to challenge students to achieve higher levels of physical fitness than their baseline comfort levels without making them feel they aren’t good enough if they can’t reach the same goal as a peer.

Focus on Disease Prevention

One of the main goals of the PAG guidelines is developing fundamental education and an understanding of disease prevention. By fostering proper physical fitness routines, students, as well as adults, have less likelihood of developing Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. It’s also crucial to teach students the opposite end of the spectrum: the effects inactivity can have on the human body. By understanding both ends of the spectrum, students are better able to find a balance and ensure sound physical health throughout their lives.

Take the Lifespan Approach

Physical fitness and sports are imperative for children’s healthy growth and development. Exercising the right way for just 60 minutes a day has a huge impact in both the short and long-term, promoting healthy day-to-day habits and encouraging a lifetime of physical activity. Students fully educated by PAG guidelines will be able to take this valuable knowledge and apply it to each stage of their life: adolescence, adulthood, and late adulthood. And it can all start with one well-designed physical education class at school.

With all these benefits, why not update your P.E. classes this National Physical Fitness and Sports Month? Which new lesson plan ideas will inspire you?

When Kids are Physically Active at School, #WellnessWins

Friday, April 28th, 2017

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By Deirdre Moyer, Student Wellness Coordinator, Rockingham County Schools, Rockingham, NC

We’ve all heard the saying, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” What if the same could be true for 60 minutes of physical activity a day?

Through quality physical education, kids learn how to move their bodies fluently and develop the necessary skills to lead an active life. In Rockingham County Schools, more than 12,000 students can count on opportunities to be active each and every day – thanks, in part, to our wellness policy.

A strong district wellness policy is an essential part of creating a healthy school district by establishing policies and practices that empower students and staff to make healthy choices at school. By including physical education and physical activity in our wellness policy, we’re showing parents, community members, teachers and administrators that we’re making it a priority to equip students with the basic skills and knowledge they need to be active throughout their lives.

Our updated wellness policy is on schedule to be approved by the USDA’s June 30 deadline, and features several guidelines for physical activity including:

  • School personnel should strive to provide opportunities for age- and developmentally-appropriate physical activity during the day for all students
  • Schools must provide at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity daily for K-8 grade students, achieved through P.E. class, recess or classroom energizers
  • Principals shall work with teachers to ensure students meet minimum physical activity requirements
  • Students should have ongoing opportunities for physical activity, which cannot be taken away as a form of punishment

The result? We’re seeing first-hand the benefits of enabling students to move more throughout the day. When kids are physically active, they are more attentive in class, perform better on tests and behave better.

Our biggest challenge in implementing a stronger wellness policy has been time; these changes don’t happen overnight. We utilized many resources to reach our wellness goals, including the SPARK curriculum to assist teachers in meeting national and state standards for physical education and activity, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s school health experts, who reviewed our policy to ensure it complied with federal standards.

Now, I’m thrilled to share an exciting new resource: the #WellnessWins campaign.

Launched by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and American Heart Association’s Voices for Healthy Kids initiative, #WellnessWins celebrates wellness policy successes like ours and helps other district leaders take action. WellnessWins.org features tips, resources and a ready-to-use model wellness policy that can help your district meet its health and wellness goals.

Are you ready to make moves with your wellness policy? Visit WellnessWins.org and get started today!