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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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    • profile image

      outdoor playgrounds 7 years ago

      i agree with what you say...

    • profile image

      caretakerray 7 years ago

      Patty Inglish, MS:

      Great hub. I have long felt the elimination of P.E. manadary classes was a huge mistake.

      this is "Health Care Reform" at it's basic and most effective.

      thanx for taking an interest. :)


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish 7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      @Jyoti Kothari - I'll link this Hub back to yours as well. eating less red meat certainly helps many health conditions.

    • JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

      Jyoti Kothari 7 years ago from Jaipur

      Hi Patty,

      Excellent hub as usual. You are great! It is horrible that one third of new born babies will suffer!

      Vegetarian food can help them! Your picture shows and encourages for that.

      Thanks and thumbs up!

      I am linking this hub to my hub "Vegetarianism: The way of healthy life"

      Jyoti Kothari

    • Faybe Bay profile image

      Faye Constantino 7 years ago from Florida

      My son is in 8th grade. Here in Florida, the Middle Schools do not have mandatory PE, it is an elective. Most kids, given a choice, will choose Band, Art, Drama, before they will ever choose PE.

      In the elementary schools, $0.00 from government funding for Phys Ed. All equipment is donated or provided by teachers, whose salaries do not come close to what they give to their community, and our children. I don't know how other states handle it, but the teachers have taken it upon themselves to "rotate" the position of "coach" among the teachers, so there is always someone to teach the kids soccer or volleyball, etc.

      Not like when we were kids. I hope Michelle Obama can go far to fix our schools.

    • Missi Darnell profile image

      Missi Darnell 7 years ago from Southern California

      Another excellent hub!

    • gramarye profile image

      gramarye 7 years ago from Adelaide - Australia

      I really enjoyed this hub, the pictures and the philosophies!

    • karlscabin profile image

      karlscabin 7 years ago from A High Desert Valley w/ river (4500ft)

      nice hub, well written!

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 7 years ago from Central New Jersey

      I so agree with you about the need for physical education in the schools and its importance and I'm so glad Michelle Obama has taken up this challenge.

      I'm remembering gym classes in high school and having to wear these awful gym suits with bloomers and little skirts and play vollyball and do little modern dance routines-- nothing to vigorous dontchaknow. But I guess it was better than nothing:-)

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      I understand you title of the torture chamber and that is a sad way to grow up. Many parent made the mistake of being too authoritarian during my growing years and PE including 2 terms of required swimming till I graduated. I had many chores and I usually took my own lunch which was healthy. I think I was fortunate as compared to the situation in many homes today. I think the Healthy School Act is a good thing. However, I think many parents are falling down on their job of being more involved in their child's school and even with food stamps you can buy healthy snacks instead of potato chips and cokes. While the school program will be good for children it won't fix the whole problem until our parents are better education about nutrition also. Great hub.

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      wow, great hub patty! you have covered it well and so happy to see a hub devoted to this program! let's hope it can help our children. well done!