Childhood obesity rates have soared over the past decades. One in three US school age children is overweight or obese, creating a need for extra time and learning about nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and exercise. Current guidelines recommend school-aged children have at least sixty minutes of physical activity per day. Busy families and an environment designed for cars rather than people make finding time and access to places to exercise difficult. Low-income children are disproportionately affected by lack of access to places and programs for exercise.
Due to the numerous health concerns of childhood obesity, school-run physical fitness programs are increasing. In addition to physical education classes and recess, schools are adding after school physical fitness programs to support healthy lifestyles. Children participating in physical fitness programs reduce body fat and BMI, increase cardiovascular fitness, and strength, and make better food choices. Additional benefits include increased concentration, classroom attendance, and academic performance.
With the help of a Jimmie Johnson Foundation/ Lowe’s Toolbox for Education Champions grant, Sadler Arts Academy in Muskogee, Oklahoma created a trail that could be utilized during the school day by teachers incorporating fitness into regular classroom activities, after school by a student fitness program, and by the local community. In the after school program, students spend an hour each day running and walking on the trail, strength training, and learning from health educators. Participants logged over 1,400 miles in only three months utilizing the trail and increased their speed and endurance. As an additional benefit, teachers have reported students’ focus in the classroom has increased.
Little, Priscilla; Wimer; Christopher; Weiss,;Heather.. After School Programs in the 21st Century: Their Potential and What it Takes to Achieve It). Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/publications-resources/browse-our-publications/family-engagement-in-anywhere-anytime-learning, 2008.
Solving the Problem of Childhood Obesity Within a Generation: White House Task Force On Childhood Obesity Report to the President. [Washington, D.C.]: Executive Office of the President of the United States, 2010.