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Let's Move On the Healthy Schools Act - How To Increase Exercise In America

Updated on June 19, 2013
Time to eat and move in more healthy ways in America!
Time to eat and move in more healthy ways in America!

The Torture Chamber

Before the world of the personal computer and the Internet arrived, the childhood activity realm consisted of outdoor play, school physical education twice a week, radio, television, stereo Hi-FI, Walk Man players and a few other options. Before and at the start of Title IX changes, there was little of the way of sports in schools for girls.

In my world, one came home from school at 3:30 PM, sat down and did homework immediately without snacks or speaking, ate dinner, bathed and was in bed at 6:30 PM nightly until the 7th grade. Physical activity was limited to two 15-minute recess periods at school and teachers often led activities and made sure everyone was involved for exercise. That 30 minutes daily helped a lot, physically and mentally.

Weekends, I was to bring home all school books, sit in one place, reread them or read ahead, and participate in weekly grocery/household item shopping. A little television was allowed. No physical activity or exercise and, in fact, exercise was used as punishment. Physical education was dropped 10th grade in high school; still no sports for girls; but marching band made up for all of that. This was 3 hours a day of exercise and marching drills for at least 4 months, followed by thrice weekly sessions during the summer. This exercise created a foundation for good health I've experienced the rest of my life, boosted by martial arts and dietary changes as an adult.

Healthier childhood and youth lifestyles can create healthier adulthoods, leading to both an increased quality of life and a reduction in healthcare costs.

Regular exercise during the day can aid better sleep at night.
Regular exercise during the day can aid better sleep at night.

21st Century Progress

First Lady Michelle Obama moved to increase the quality of life for her children by examining their usual diets and physical activities. Finding some ares for improvement, she went further, proposing a program called Let's Move to help all US children get healthy and stay healthy.

This program follows in the path of President John F. Kennedy's contribution, the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports that sponsors physical fitness events each year in the schools and awards physical fitness award certificates at intervals to children and adults for a range of physical activities. These certificates have been useful in helping my students and instructors to keep better records of activities and to motivate certificate earners to stay with a program of physical activity. First Lady Obama is working to modernize the related annual President's Fitness Challenge that involves all ages from children to seniors.

Let's Move targets activities that families, hometowns, and public and private business sectors have at their disposal to fight childhood obesity. Especially when combined with Childhood Overfeeding int he US, obesity among this demographic is an epidemic in America.

The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have found increases in the decade of the 2000s in childhood conditions of 1) Type II Diabetes and 2) high blood pressure. These are avoidable conditions in many cases, controllable through nutrition, dietary changes, and physical activity.

President's Task Force on Childhood Obesity

President Barack Obama recognizes the NIH and CDC findings that:

"One-third of all individuals born in the year 2000 or later will eventually suffer from diabetes over the course of their lifetimes, while too many others will face chronic obesity-related health problems, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and asthma."

The President's Task Force includes all of the following Cabinet Secretaries or Directors: Agriculture, Interior, Health and Human Services, Education, Management and Budget, Asst to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady, Asst to the President for Economic Policy. and other officials.

Goals of the Task Force are to

  1. Ensure access to healthy, affordable food;
  2. Increase physical activity in schools and communities;
  3. Provide healthier food in schools; and
  4. Empower parents with relevant information and tools.

My Experience

During years of budget cuts to the school systems of America, the first cuts are to music, the arts, and physical education; yet, all of these things are mandatory for developing the Brain and Central Nervous System to handle the Core Educational Courses and now, STEM courses (sciences, technologies, engineering). When "crunch time" comes and schools need students to meet testing outcomes under simultaneous budget cuts, the fall-back position is to drill, memorize, and drill. It does not work. The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts ARTSEDGE conducted studies in the 1990s (and designed lessons around them) into the arts that showed unequivocally that music, the arts, and physical activity are physically required for children to do well in the core subjects like math, reading, and writing in school. After 20 years of applciation and study replication, this is all commonly and professionally  accepted. Trying to save money by eliminating what budget-cutters call "nonsense classes" is a disservice to the children. Cutting arts and music is slowing development. Cutting physical education is killing them.

First Lady Michelle Obama at Miriams Kitchen, a non-profit that provides healthy meals to the homeless in DC (all images on this page in the public domain)
First Lady Michelle Obama at Miriams Kitchen, a non-profit that provides healthy meals to the homeless in DC (all images on this page in the public domain)

State by State

In Pennsylvania, under consideration is House Bill 1572, Healthy Schools Act. It will update a 30-year-old set of nutrition standards for food items sold outside the food line at schools. This includes vending machines, a la carte food lines, and school stores. Other states have the opportunity to take similar actions.

Related to Healthy Schools and Let's Move, ARAMARK is a top provider of food and nutrition services to over 3,000 K-12 schools across America. As such, they are joining Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign. By doing so, they may be creating a need for additional employment in their company branches as well. School lunch menu changes will focus on more fruits, juices, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat and fat-free milk products and to offer only healthy amounts of fat and whole grains, while cutting sugar and salt content from 2011 - 2015. The Company also aims to double the amount of produce offered in school meals through 2020.

A caveat to Let's Move and better diets is the high cost of fruits and vegetables in many supermarkets. Many children will still eat dinner at home, even if they receive breakfast and lunch at school, and the third meal and snacks afterward open possibilities that may undo somewhat the good of the day.

Let's Move can have healthy results for the country and for its children and families. An addition of related new jobs and an overall cut in produce prices could help the rest of America enjoy and better quality of life as well.

An Update on School Lunches: June 2013

An 11-year-old student filmed a documentary about his school lunches with a hidden camera and enjoyed success as several film festivals. The food did not usually match the school dining room's healthy and tasty descriptions!

See Zachary MaxWell's School Lunch - YUCK!


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