I said it’s simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy.
The solution is to make exercise a part of every child’s school day, EVERY DAY.
Obesity is already one of the biggest battles that our children’s generation is going to have to fight. Did you know that obesity levels have tripled since we were children? According to figures published in The Lancet, the number of obese people in the world has risen from 875 million in 1980, to over 2 billion today.
We all know the main culprits of childhood obesity are poor diet and lack of physical activity.
The diet part is an important part of the conversation, but not the whole conversation.
The exercise part – it’s simple from where I’m sitting. Every day we have a captive audience of millions of children going to school, and government departments and committees that have the power to decide how they spend their time each day.
So my question is this: why – with everything we know about the benefits of exercise on the body and the brain, on learning, problem solving, concentration, behavioural issues and of course, health and wellness – why are we still not making exercise a required part of EVERY school day?
In this TED Talk, Dr. John J Ratey, MD, talks about a school in the US that includes 45 minutes of compulsory exercise time in the students’ daily routine – EVERY DAY. It has an incredible effect on Maths and Science results, morale, mental health, attendance, behavioural issues and obesity rates – with not a single obese student to be found when the national average at the time was 33%.
Exercise is the answer.
Not just to burn off the calories that children consume in poor diets.
Exercise is the answer because it switches on the brain, it makes us feel great about ourselves, it develops a respect for our bodies, it empowers us to feel in control of who we are and the choices we make – including choices about food.
Exercise is a concrete way to feel through your body the power that you have to change your emotional state, push through difficult moments, improve through daily practice, be the best that you can be.
Exercise presented in a positive way, by a coach who inspires us to appreciate our bodies, and who can encourage us to notice our improvements in a way that boosts our confidence and self-esteem, can set children up for a life-long positive relationship with a healthy, active lifestyle.
I believe that a daily exercise program at school – a program based in exercise and fitness life skills, not sport-specific skills – would create a generation of children whose bodies and brains are so accustomed to moving every day that they would seek it out in all areas of their life, and continue with it as a daily practice for years to come. We really could build a generation who understand the value of daily exercise, and know that it’s for everyone, not just for sporty people.
Imagine if every child was nurtured and encouraged to exercise daily. Every child – not just the sporty ones. Imagine the self-respect these children would have, and the healthy lifestyle choices they’d feel empowered to make. Imagine if we really turned our focus to teaching children exercise life skills, skills for everyone, that they can apply to daily life, or transfer to sport if that’s their choice, instead of the other way around.
Let’s give our kids a better chance to make living a healthy active lifestyle a daily practice! Who’s with me?