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Letter: Too Many Overweight Kids in Our Schools

According to the CDC, 17 percent of American children aged 6-11 are overweight. Unhealthy weight gain (due mainly to poor diet and lack of exercise) is responsible for over 300,000 deaths each year. Childhood obesity leads to adolescent obesity, which leads to adult obesity. All this obesity is a direct contributor to many life-threatening conditions, including: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke. Many studies have found that regular physical activity and careful attention to diet are key factors in maintaining a healthy weight.

Schools have come a long way in serving healthy lunches, while there may be more that can be done in this area, there is no doubt my children get a healthier lunch than I received 30 years ago.

Back when I was in elementary school obesity was not such a problem, not nearly so. Children had significantly more physical activity, whether it was running during recess, playing outside after school or during “gym” in school. At the same time many fewer households had two working parents, allowing more activity and less after school programs.

What have schools done to promote physical activity? At my son’s school they have “gym” twice weekly for 40 minutes. Not nearly enough physical activity, as can be seen by obesity rates. This is not the end, during these two 40 minute weekly “gym” times they start with reading a book, writing a letter or some other sedate activity. If they are doing this during “gym” what is the rest of the school day for? Do teachers no longer teach reading and writing, so it is left to the gym teacher? This may lead to more proficient readers and writers, but what is the use of being “smarter” if you are dead?

Schools need to wake up and smell the fat! If budgets only allow two 40 minute gym sessions per week, at least use them wisely. Stop having children attend gym in order to have a book read to them, writing a letter, or contemplating the weather. Classroom teachers can handle that just fine.

Gym time is for physical exercise, getting the kids to move their bodies where the rest of the day they sit idly by.

Christopher Roth