The health of our youth

Dodgeball isn't the usual game in gym class anymore. /Image:

Dodgeball isn’t the usual game in gym class anymore. /Image:

Are kids getting enough exercise?

Article: Robyn Tocker – A&C Editor

In Canada, 26 per cent of children are either obese or overweight. The Heart and Stroke Foundation says this coming generation will be the first to not live as long as the previous. Fundraisers like Jump Rope for Heart encourage children to become active. Principal Len Thauberger of St. Andrew Elementary says he hasn’t seen the level of childhood activity change that much since he began his career as a principal, but the fact that schools are improving their physical education program is helping.

Thauberger also says the program emphasizes movement and is moving away from the traditional “this season we’re going to teach football, basketball, volleyball.” The emphasis now is on general fitness.

“There’s a lot more that’s done that’s strictly focused on cardio. Movement and skills are taught and the other sports are actually just kind of brought up by using those skills and activities.”

Getting children active is the first priority, says Thauberger. Last year at his school, students in grades seven and eight had the opportunity to go to gyms and learn how to use the equipment. The idea was continued this year and it not only encourages healthy behaviour, but gives students proactive lessons that can be used for the rest of their lives.

“Some families enrolled in the gyms because of that.”

It seems having specialists who only teach physical education also helps students gain a greater knowledge of how to stay fit. Thauberger says the 120 minutes of physical education per week is taught by a specialist and is no longer that “free spot on the bingo card” it used to be.

“It’s not like ‘let’s go play football and I’ll sit there and watch’.”

[pullquote]“There’s a lot more that’s done that’s strictly focused on cardio. Movement and skills are taught and the other sports are actually just kind of brought up by using those skills and activities.” [/pullquote]

While dodge ball is a classic game, Thauberger says it isn’t something you’ll find when walking into St. Andrew very often, at least not during gym class.

But no matter what efforts are made in schools, the fact of the matter is a child can’t spend all day in the gymnasium. They go home and are confronted with the various technologies that can hinder the progress made. From there, it is up to families to encourage what is being taught. Flanery Stockle, a stay-at-home mother of three, works to make sure her children are more active than she was.

“For me, personally, they are way more active than I was because I used to just sit around and read books all the time. They read books a lot but they have lots of energy and they play outside and lots of stuff like that.”

Stockle home-schools her children, so while the children don’t experience the same type of physical activity they would in a public or separate school, Stockle keeps her children busy with various activities.

“More on the weekends or in the evening they’ll go to soccer or Cross-Fit. It helps that [my husband] is really into building their skills with sports and stuff. You know, biking with them and baseball and stuff like that out in the yard.”

For the modern family, there are a variety of opportunities to engage children in a healthy lifestyle, and as Stockle notes, it is incredibly important for her children’s futures.

“It’s a healthy habit to be active and to take care of your body. It helps [the children’s] mood and stress and behaviour.”

The fight between health and laziness will always be at large, but as long as schools and families team up, there’s a chance this next generation will beat the statistics.

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