Recently we have seen more and more studies looking at the possible causes for and prevention of childhood obesity. One study showed that soda in schools increased obesity, another purported that junk food sales in schools had no impact on obesity or BMI, and yet another stated that the decline in physical education is causing our children to become more sedentary. Let’s ignore these studies for a moment and conduct a little research of our own. Take a minute to stand up from your desk. Take 20 steps in place – jog if you feel adventurous. Reach your arms all the way to ceiling and get a good stretch. Sit down. Then think about how you feel? Are you feeling a little warmer, and a little more awake? Research concluded.
We have lost movement in our lives and regardless of what the research shows, our bodies tell us that we need it. Children have stopped moving and we need to do something about that now.
When a child goes to school most, if not all, of their day is spent being sedentary. More schools are dropping physical education or have less than 30 minutes a day of physical education one day a week. Recess too is becoming a thing of the past. In many of our nation’s schools if students get outside it is for less than 20 minutes, and oftentimes the withdrawal of recess is used a punishment, especially for those children who really need this physical activity release.
Our body was designed for complex movement and without it we suffer; we do not need research to prove this to us — we see it every day in our own lives. But where and when do our children get the chance to move? If you are a parent, do you know how much movement your child is getting each day? Movement is central in the fight for a healthier generation. When children move it improves not just their physical health but mental health as well. When you push your body to perform physically you learn about its limitation and its strength. You gain a connection to it and you begin to listen to what it needs to be healthy . Our children need to move.
I hear all too often that neighborhoods aren’t safe anymore for children to play outside – something so common for youth in my generation. Yet research shows that it is not that communities are more dangerous or there is more crime. The larger issue is that there is less community. We keep our children indoors and play video games, we don’t get outside to know who lives near us. We are becoming a more and more of an isolated society. We would rather send a text, than call, let alone meet face to face. Without community we don’t feel safe. When you walk down the street where you know people around you—no matter the crime rate of that neighborhood—you feel safer.
This generation is the first generation whose life expectancy is less than those of the generation before. In response, we need not “find” safe places for families and children; we must move with urgency to “build” safe places for them by building community, places where they can be active and healthy.
This blog post was written in response to an article called Junk Food in Schools and Childhood Obesity , accessible here .
Diana Cutaia is the Director of Athletics and co-founder of the Sport based-Youth Development program at Wheelock College. She has over 20 years’ experience in using sport as a tool for positive youth development and is a leading expert on topics such as physical activity, girls in sport, peaceful coaching, and positive cultures in sport.