Focus on Healthy Diets & Physical Activity of Today’s Students . . . How Can We Do Better
By Carolyn M. Schaeffer
Old story… Obesity has become an epidemic in our society. Fast food, technology, and sedentary living has made it so that it has become an unescapable inevitable fate of each new generation. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, approximately more than one third of children and adolescents are overweight and obese.
Public schools, families and communities are the biggest culprits not dealing with this is-sue. The schools especially have many options they can implement to reduce and eventually eliminate the numbers of children who are inflicted with this problem.
Due to budgets cuts that have eliminated Physical Education as part of the curriculum, increasing pressure on school testing, and socio-economic conditions that forces families to eat sub-par foods, schools have taken a back seat to their student’s heath care. How are our youth supposed to perform their best in the classrooms without correct or adequate nutrition to feed their bodies and the physical exercise to keep their bodies fit? It is an unrealistic expectation.
Children spend most of their days in a school setting. I have observed over the years that children would be attracted to healthier eating habits if it is presented to them in a positive light at school. While offering a healthy, made-on-sight lunch at school, the students who bring lunch from home have become attracted to the hot meal. Most of the boxed foods for these students are processed (such as “Lunchables®,” “Hot Pockets®,” or “Maruchan Raman Chicken Soup), high in sodium, and have very little or no nutritional value. We need to feed the brain and not just fill the stomachs.
Currently, we spend more than $140 billion per year on obesity-related health care costs. If we allow this to escalate, the cost will be transferred to the families by way of increased health coverage. We have also learned that pediatric obesity has been related to cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, as well as increase the chances of developing chronic heart issues. Therefore we must, to quote Hippocrates, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
As a compliment to the nutrition, we need to aspire to re-turn a regimental physical education program back into the general curriculum of educational institutes. With the growing addiction to technology, children have become less active. Schools and families need to limit the amount of sedentary activities (at home or in the classroom) and motivate them to engage in physical activities. As of now only six (6) states require that physical education be provided at every grade level.
With awareness comes resolution. Now that we are aware that we are driving off the road toward healthy living, we will adjust our direction and focus on a progressive path to well-ness.