Summer and Overweight Children

Question: I keep seeing obese and overweight children this summer. What do you think schools can do to make the kids healthier? What do schools do with all of these overweight kids?
When schools resume in September, there are many things schools can do to help all students.
Children are in school for at least 6 hours, and they should exercise a good portion of that time. Elementary teachers are required by law to give students 100 minutes a week of physical education instruction. Not all of this has to be aerobic exercise, but a great deal of the time kids spend in PE should be physical.

Certainly making school lunch options healthier is essential. If schools are not presenting healthy options to children, parents need to do it themselves.
An important note is that our students have at least one 15-20 minute recess, and another 50 minute lunch. If kids know that time spent outside should be full of running and playing, those kids get enough exercise on their own.

In schools, you do find overweight children unwilling or unable to keep up with peers who are at a healthier weight, and those overweight children do not find enough physical outlets on their break time to start to make changes in their health. As teachers, we can encourage all children to play together and include one another. We also need to make sure there is no teasing going on as kids make attempts to be healthy and active.

Principals need to take the lead on encouraging physical play at recesses and finding activities in which all kids can participate. It is not enough to tell playground supervisors to set the tone. Sometimes parents will complain when schools make kids do things, like play and stay active, even when those things are beneficial for children. Some overweight children now have additional health problems including asthma, diabetes, and bone and joint problems, but doctors still give guidelines to parents oftentimes prescribing physical activity. If those parents share those guidelines with the school, activities can be devised to specifically address those needs.

Remember, kids go to school from around 8-2, and while they sit for much of that time the time is spent engaged in learning. If they go home and are allowed to relax the rest of their day, 6-7 hours, with the TV, computer, and/or video games, they will eat more and exercise less. Parents have to be part of the solution when it comes to setting up a healthy environment for their kids.

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