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Fitting Fitness into Our Schools
Having identified obesity in schools as a problem, we need to look at ways we can incorporate more exercise in schools. Developing an overall school fitness program needs to include school exercise programs in addition to teaching healthy eating habits and establishing healthier school lunch menus. Only with appropriate exercise programs can we really begin to have an affect our students’ struggle with obesity.
Schools around the country and in Canada have been finding innovative ways to integrate more exercise in their daily schedules. They have been making use of the time before and after school and during lunch to provide supervised school exercise programs for their students. Some schools even assign active homework! Activities include sports such as soccer and basketball, running events, dance games and even ice skating and snow shoeing during the cold weather months in northern climates where it is difficult to get students out of their heated schools and homes. Frederick Hahn co-founder of the National Council for Exercise Standards says that our students also need strength or resistance training. His premise is that thirty minutes per week of resistance training will increase muscle mass and speed up the metabolism in children thereby combating obesity in a different direction.
There is a program called Running School which focuses its program on critical aerobic capacity. Based on criterion referenced standards according to gender and age groups (6 to 10 years and 10-14 years), students participate in half-mile or mile runs four times a year to document their progress. These kinds of activities encourage the cardio-respiratory system endurance.
Students at Shoal Lake School in Manitoba are playing a video game called Dance Dance Revolution. In the game, players stand on square mats with arrows. The video screen displays corresponding arrows to the beat of a variety of songs with the players following the screen and stomping on the corresponding arrows on the mat according to the rhythm of the music. Since this type of activity is obviously more fun than doing push-ups, students enjoy this form of exercise in school. Creating school exercise programs as part of an overall school fitness program does not have to break the school budget. Encouraging more exercise in schools is a worthy goal for us as teachers, administrators and parents. Exercise programs will help us to prepare our students’ bodies as well as their minds for their future tasks in this world. Strong bodies build strong minds.