Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Stopping Childhood Obesity
By New York State law, kindergarten through sixth grade kids are required to have at least two hours of physical education every week. Daily instruction until third grade and at least three times weekly after that by law. According to a recent audit of thirty-one elementary schools, only two were meeting the requirement. There were many reasons given for this deficit by principals. Some blame budget cuts, some blame lack of space and personnel. Not surprisingly, the pressure to prepare kids for standardized tests also took a lot of the blame.
According to the 2009 DOE and DOH report 21% of children, kindergarten through eighth grade, are obese and 18% are considered overweight. How sad is it that so many of the children that are now considered overweight and obese are not getting access to just twenty-four minutes of physical education on a daily basis. Research shows that physical activity has many benefits beyond just making kids physically healthier (preventing obesity in kids is a great way to prevent the prevalence of diseases like type 2 diabetes, asthma and heart disease), but can also "increase a child's capacity to learn."
Childhood obesity hurts low-income families the most. This is part of the reason the CDC has committed $25 million to a four-year research project to "combat childhood obesity in low-income kids."
There are many ways parents can help prevent their kids becoming part of this alarming statistic. One is improved nutrition. The second is more physical activity. The third is getting schools involved.
Of course, it can seem expensive to eat the healthier, expensive fresh vegetables when compared to buying a McDonald's Happy Meal. But really it isn't. Feeding a family of four a meal from McDonald's can cost about $28. Whereas, making a chicken, potatoes and salad for four meal will costs half that. Going with the healthier option of a pinto beans and rice for four meal will costs less than $10! Cutting or reducing the amount of soda and juice in the family diet also makes a huge difference.
Check out these links on how to save and eat better: Helpguide.org, StrongLifts.com and Simple Mom. If time is also an issue, check out these links for some quick, healthy recipes under $10: LearnVest and Nourished Kitchen.
Encourage your kids to get out and play with their friends. Simple Kids has a list of fun games for kids that involve little or no equipment. Go for walks with your kids. Get them involved in after school sports. And if school is not too far away, encourage kids to walk or bike to school.
Talk to your kids' school teachers and principal to make changes. Just getting involved and making your voice heard can make a huge difference in what is happening in your child's school for the better. Simply rearranging how schools display fruits and vegetables in cafeterias greatly increases the chances of kids making healthier options on their own. And even though it may not seem connected, get out and vote. Remember, our schools are controlled by the mayor in New York City. Who you choose to run this city is who is going to be running our schools.