Some students in the Mid-Ohio Valley have gym class a few times a week, but others attend a school where gym class is offered just one semester out of the school year. When you also consider that school recesses have been trimmed, you see how important it is for parents to make sure their children get the physical activity they need outside of school.
Kids used to get a lengthy recess each day as well as gym class one to three times each week. But for many schools, a lack of funding means that's no longer the norm. Families need to take a look at their own routines to see how they can work more physical activity into their days or weeks.
If you aren't convinced of the benefits of exercise to children, consider this information from kidshealth.org:
- Exercise benefits every part of the body including the mind. It encourages sleep and overall, will make a child feel better physically and emotionally. That will help them have the confidence and self-esteem they need to be successful.
- Exercise will help maintain a healthy weight and prevent the onset of health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Regular exercise can help improve a youngster's energy throughout the day, helping him to be more alert and retain more of what he learns.
Exercise doesn't have to mean a formal workout. For kids and teenagers, it often means playing ball, skateboarding, swimming or riding bikes. Playing at a playground or taking family hikes or walks are other ways to make physical activity fun. Generally, it's recommended that children be physically active for an hour or more a day. When you consider many kids watch three or more hours of television a day, it's easy to see there is time to work in some physical activity.
Parents need to set a good example. They can't just talk the talk, they literally have to walk the walk. Parents who make physical activity a priority are likely to raise kids who are physically active. And an active child is most likely to become and active adult, which will lead to all kinds of health benefits down the road.
For those schools that have had to cut back on physical education or cut it out completely, there's still a role for you to play. Schools should do what they can to sponsor family fun nights, which encourage families to come to the gym for a night of fun, physical activities. Or schools could challenge families to school-wide contests in which the families that log the most walking or running miles win prizes.
The health of our school children is everyone's responsibility. We hope schools and families will look for more ways to work together to keep kids active all year round.