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"Except for smoking, obesity is now the number one preventable cause of death in this country. Three hundred thousand people die of obesity every year."
Dr. C. Everett Koop
Just as smoking is becoming a popular trend in the younger generations, obesity is being seen even younger. It has been known that genetics have been a big influence on obesity but a person's daily choices are even bigger. Physical Education in school is one of the many ways we can offer to children to help them fight obesity.
Preventing childhood obesity often starts in the home. Some activities that may help prevent obesity start with mothers. Many people don't realize how important nutrition is while being pregnant, but everything they take into their bodies is also being given to the baby as well. If the mother breast feeds it will enhance nutrition more than the mixed formulas that can be bought at the store. Parents should begin to read labels for their children at an early age and offer healthier snacks. Little things like choosing to take the stairs over the elevator and making lunch instead of buying it at the cafeteria or ordering out are also healthier ways to watch your weight. Even though it may seem minuscule, eating dinner together as a family instead of in different rooms watching television also helps (Knabe).As parents, they must be sure their children boost their daily physical activity while they are in their adolescent years. If this is done there is a chance that they will continue to be active as they grow up. This will help them maintain a physical fitness level so they aren't fatigued after daily tasks. Activity like this helps determine one's body composition and metabolism. Increased energy expenditure equals weight loss and maintains lean body mass which increases mobilization and burning body fat while resting (Casajus). Being physically active and including exercises for endurance, flexibility, and strength is ideal and necessary for normal growth and development of cardio endurance, muscle strength, flexibility, motor skills, and agility. Adding weight bearing activities such as jumping or lifting can also help bone development.
By developing an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits as early as elementary school the child will reduce the risks of being obese. The National Center for Health reports that the percent of elementary students that are obese has doubled since 1980. At the age of six, if a child is obese and has an obese parent there is a seventy-five percent change they will be obese when they are older. If both their parents are obese the percentage rises to about eighty percent. Eighty-five percent of people who are obese will continue to be obese for the rest of their lives. The majority of these people come from the minority groups and low income areas (Brown).
Obese students often struggle with low self esteem and mood disorders. Physically they can cause shorter life spans, hypertension, asthma, arthritis, heart disease, stress on bones and lungs, high cholesterol, joint disease, irregular menstrual for women, stokes, gall stones, gout, sleep apnea, and possibly cancer. and type II diabetes( Brown & Knabe). An example given was that ten years ago type II diabetes was almost unknown among adolescents, but in today's society almost half of the cases are dealing with young children (CDC.The).
Being obese can affect children's walking patterns and snowball from there. They will walk slower and flat footed with their toes pointed outward. This can cause body tissue damage and structural deformities. It has been found those students who aren't engaged in Physical Education in school gain about 1 inch more around their waist and two pounds more than students who are involved. The central and abdominal obesity increases faster than the total body obesity (Brown & Central).Physical Education is one of the main preventions that we can actually control and could be the way to find a cure.
Some of the main causes of obesity include TV, video games, and computers. Big portions followed by poor eating habits and over worked parents also contribute. A major cause is cutting back on physical education because they are reducing some students' only physical activity.
Schools try to help prevent obesity as well as giving a top ten recommendations; First children must reduce their sedentary activities such as watching television, playing video games, or surfing the web. Apart from limiting those activities, they must pick up their natural play. This will improve fitness, help organs develop to the optimal level, increase self-esteem, develop movement skills and increase social and cognitive skills. Taking part in household chores can also contribute to this. Things like doing the dishes, cleaning the house, or even taking out the trash can add to one's daily activities. Physical Education in school is a major prevention. In this class both aerobic and anaerobic activities should be done. Promoting varsity sports and camps to students can also influence them to be involved in a sport which adds to physical activity immensely. Encouraging different hobbies such as gardening or fishing can also be included as physical activity.
One very important recommendation is to be patient! For obese students exercises such as swimming, cycling, and a strength/aerobic circuit is probably best. Another factor which will help incredibly will be to involve family and friends. These two groups of people have the biggest influences on our lives. They are not only our role models, but our social support and transportation. Parental support is the key to a cure for childhood obesity. Lastly, set realistic goals that are able to be met. If you set goals that can't be met than you will become easily frustrated and will most likely give up ( Nowicka).
The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "Physical Education is the leading tool to battle obesity" (Center). In 2006, a poll was taken on the amount of states that contributed to obesity control. The tops controls included Obesity commissions and advisory councils, recess and physical education, nutrition standards, and obesity programs and education (Szwarc). Education is the most common prevention yet, just recently only 15% of elementary schools don't have physical education teachers that have to be certified, licensed, or endorsed by the state to teach physical education. I don't understand why schools would let someone step into the classroom if they were not qualified to be teaching students. All teachers should have their teaching certifications as well as clearances that give proof that they are capable of teaching students at any level. By letting someone in there who has no prior background in this area or even the slightest bit of knowledge of physical education, the school is only giving themselves bad reputation that could put them as risk (SHPPS). The National Association of State Boards of Education wrote that "health and success in school are interrelated. Schools cannot achieve their primary mission of education if students and staff are not healthy and fit physically, mentally, and socially." ( CDC.The ) The nation should be thanking those educators and policy makers who are contributing their knowledge to fight obesity. (CDC.The)
Schools cannot do this on their own, but they are putting forth a full effort to do their best. Over 95 percent of young people are enrolled in schools. In those schools they have to take physical education classes and being involved in activities that promote good health. By having children in school young they can adopt behaviors that include daily physical activity. (CDC.The)
Some people think that once a student becomes a "fat kid" there is no turning back. They think that putting obese students into activities will make their actions towards doing activity worse, but this isn't true. There is always that chance that the student will enjoy these activities and reverse the phase. This will prove that obese students can become fit and healthy (Szwarc).
According to NANA (National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity) "Elementary students should be receiving approximately 150 minutes a week of physical education where as the middle school and high school students should have about 225 minutes a week. This doesn't include extracurricular activities."(Russette) Even though these requirements vary nationwide, the requirements set are not even met half of the time (Russette).
Some administrators are so obsessed with scoring high on standardized test that they limit the amount of recess or Physical Education class. Obese children do not usually participate in sports so they often try to hide in Physical education classes. Junk Food Science says that Physical Educators have the most negative feelings toward obese students than any other health profession because they associate obesity with being bad, lazy, or stupid. Caucasian women who are a part of this group are stereotyped to be the most negative. Being a future health and Physical Education teacher and a Caucasian woman I do not agree with this statement what so ever. Many physical educators are the ones willing to help. I interviewed my old high school Phys. Ed. teacher and during the interview I ask "Do you believe Physical Educators are ignoring the obesity problem or trying to help it?" She responded by telling me "No, we're not ignoring it, but we can't do anything about it because that has to start at home. We can only teach them exercise and teach them how to eat right and nutrition, but we can't stop what they eat and what they do when they aren't here" (Hohl).
According to the CDC, the percentage of high school students participating in physical activity and physical education varied between girls and boys. Girls were more active while in physical education classes rather than doing daily activity on their own whereas boys were more active on their own rather than in physical education class. Over half of high school students participated in physical education. Of those students more than seventy-five percent of them were involved in sports or exercised for twenty minutes or longer during the day (CDC.Physical). About 95 % of high schools require physical education whereas nearly 70% of elementaries do. I believe that we should have more elementary schools being involved because this is where we first can introduce the young students to fitness. Of the schools that do require physical education less than 15% of them actually meet the recommended requirements. In some schools physical activity is used as punishment. No wonder that students, not just obese students hate doing physical activity when it's related to punishment. Nobody wants to be punished they want to have fun.(SHPPS) Teachers need to focus more on letting the students have fun while they are being active rather than making sure they understand the skills of each sport they are taught. If there isn't a care free atmosphere than everyone will be uptight about it and they will look for reasons to opt out of coming to class.
Physical Education classes shouldn't just be geared towards the students who are already athletic. They should meet the needs of all students. They shouldn't focus on ability but skills and knowledge and keeping the students moving throughout the entire class period. In some cases there will be students that need extra help. These students shouldn't be left out in the cold either. Yes they do need extra attention, but only to its limits. Most of the time they will have an aide that will assist you in the class. It should be known that these students will mostly likely not have the athletic ability as the other students but I guarantee they will put forth the best effort in class. It should be fun for every student no matter what skill level they are at. (CDC.The) All students should participate in physical education daily because not only is it giving them a chance to be physically active during the day, but it's also helping them develop knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, and confidence that is needed to be physically active for life(CDC.Making).
Vending machines in the schools are also a primary cause of obesity (Weight). While I was in high school our school took many measures to ensure we were eating healthy. They removed all soda from the machines and replaced them with drinks like Gatorade, water, and juices. The vending machines that were open to student between classes no longer were made available. They also limited the option of buying a second or third lunch as many football players did. Also they gave healthier options for lunch and made foods that weren't healthy more expensive so students were less likely to buy them. They even offered a walking club where students could walk the halls during their free periods with respect to other classes to add more physical activity to their day.
During the presidential elections, the candidates were asked how they felt about the rise of obesity. Many of their responses were similar. They planned to eliminate junk food and only serve food that met the FDA guidelines in schools. They all agreed that it needs to start at home and not just in the school setting (What). I agreed with John McCain on that it's not just the federal Governments responsibility to mandate fitness. It has to start at home. Parents must be willing to keep their families active and support the schools that provide Physical Education. Obama "wants to target schools in states with the highest obesity rates." (Obama qtd. In Post) I agree with that, but I also think we should target the states that aren't obese because if we leave them go they may fall behind and we'll be in even bigger trouble. The candidates also spoke of Carol White's PEP Grant. This grant goes to LEAs and community-based organizations (CBOs) to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including after-school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Grant recipients must implement programs that help students make progress toward meeting state standards. Projects that can be benefited through this grant include equipment and support to enable students to participate actively in physical education activities. Funds also may support staff and teacher training and education. The number of states and districts who provide funding for physical education is slowly growing but it still is not enough to fulfill the needs of obese children. Sometimes the school budgets just can't afford to provide the right equipment for physical education classes let alone for all the school sports. (SHPPS)
Not only is obesity a health problem for billions of people throughout the world, but it is also a costly problem. The annual cost of obesity is about $100 billion for society (Marcus). It is killing our medical care system due to the cost of medical procedures, wages of employees unable to work because of illness, disability, or premature death. (CDC.The)
Obesity is not only a challenge physically, but socially and economically as well. Without the help of schools and their Physical Education programs the problem will only get worse. If we keep at this epidemic and don't let up than we may have a chance to eliminate it. We must first educate our students and their parents so they are aware of the problem we are facing so we may fight it together. We cannot make this change single handedly we must work together as a team in order to accomplish our goal. Our schools are going to play a major role in fighting obesity and picking up the lives of our nation one person at a time.