More than five years ago, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published Guidelines for School and Community Programs to promote physical activity in children and teenagers, in hopes of helping them develop lifelong exercise and physical fitness regimens.
If you, as a parent, understand and embrace these guidelines, you can work with your school system and with community centers and programs, like the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, to encourage and even help to develop physical activity and exercise programs that support your goals.
If your child is obese, slightly overweight or simply in danger of falling into the great, black pit of video gaming, you need to get them off the couch, out from in front of the computer or video game station, and out into the fresh air to get some exercise.
Without exercise, diet is much less successful.
Although your child may balk at physical activities at first, they will eventually find that they feel better, sleep better and function better when they exercise.
Take a look at some of the CDC guidelines and look for ways to get your child more involved in exercise, and/or to get YOURSELF more involved in the development of these programs in your schools and community.
The CDC encourages schools and community organizations alike to establish policies and guidelines that encourage physical activity that is enjoyable and that is suitable for all age groups, so that exercise becomes a lifelong activity.
Schools MUST require physical education credits and provide detailed health education and courses to teach children proper nutritional habits and to show them the right way to exercise so that they are not injured in the process.
Schools will find and implement physical education and exercise programs that encourage physical activity and offer enjoyable options. Activities like dance, gymnastics, sports and other options should be offered with supervised coaching to avoid injury. Not all activities should be competitive!
Activities should be sequential, advancing in complexity and challenge as the child ages to allow them to achieve physical potential.
At minimum, National Physical Fitness standards should be met.
Both schools and community organizations must provide funding and adequate supervision and guidance for physical activities, sports, and exercise equipment.
These activities and equipment choices must provide a broad range of options to satisfy the interests of all the children in the community, and school system.
Community and school programs should include activities that are appropriate for children of all ages and all levels of ability.
These programs should be advertised and promoted to children to advise them of the availability and the programs should be desirable and enjoyable for the age group and type of children who are expected to participate.
Health education classes should help students develop knowledge and skills to encourage and enhance proper diet and exercise programs. These programs should foster an appropriate attitude so that all children WANT to live a healthy life style.
Programs should stress moderation in all activities so that children see exercise as one of the things they will do every day, in addition to the other activities they love, e.g. computer or video games, or watching TV or movies.
All coaches, teachers, health education staff, and recreation directors should have appropriate training to manage and promote this physical education and exercise programs and to ensure that the children under their supervision safely participate in these programs.
Safe, supervised access to facilities and equipment is critical!
Unstructured play time is important during school and after school, with tools and equipment to encourage impromptu games, e.g. balls, bats, jump ropes, gymnastics equipment.
Parents and teachers should come together to discuss the availability of school and community exercise and physical education programs.
Parents should be encouraged to take on exercise and physical activities and to share these with their children as appropriate; to become role models for their kids by exercising and participating in physical activities during family events, at work functions, while visiting the park, etc.
All school and community programs should be evaluated periodically.
This evaluation should be detailed enough to ensure that the needs of the children in the community are being met.
Does each child have more than one option and opportunity for exercise and health education in multiple venues and facilities?
Now that you understand the CDC recommendations, take a look at your own school system and at the extracurricular, and community availability of physical activities, sports and exercise options.
If your community is lagging behind in these programs, get actively involved. Your attendance and presentation at a town board meeting can get organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, and the YMCA into your community.
And you can talk to your school board and PTA or PTO about the shortcomings in your physical education and health programs, and how your school system may be able to improve their current programs.
You will find it much easier to help your child meet their weight loss or fitness goals when you have community and school system support.
For your overweight, obese or inactive child, this support and assistance is priceless!