Childhood Obesity and Physical Education

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“Schools serve as an excellent venue to provide students with opportunity for daily physical activity, to teach the importance of regular physical activity for health, and to build skills that support active lifestyles”(Robert wood foundation, 2007). In today’s modern society, the importance of physical activity in a child’s development needs to be recognised and promoted. It is important that teachers and parents encourage and facilitate students to participate in programs which enable them to be both physically and mentally active. Encouraging ‘middle aged’ (6-10yrs) children to be involved in physical activity, whether at school or at home, helps their growth and development and also promotes positive factors in their general health and wellbeing.

Physical education can consist of various activities, either in the classroom or in the playground. Creating diverse programs and activities such as running, skipping, jumping, swimming, dancing and typical team sports, contribute to these physical aspects of growth and development. These activities stimulate blood and oxygen circulation throughout the body and brain, which assists the academic side of learning, thereby increasing a child’s concentration span in the classroom. “When a child has a clearer mind and is physically active, they tend to perform better academically” (Robert wood Foundation, 2007). Encouraging children to participate in team sports and group activities can enhance their ability to understand teamwork, cooperation with others and good sportsmanship. Physical sports and activities enable children to develop confidence and to also stimulate muscle strength, hand and eye coordination, gross motor skills and a good level of fitness.

For children that receive no encouragement to be physically active and also have unhealthy eating habits, the risk of developing obesity, diabetes and other health problems becomes somewhat more prevalent. “In the decade 1985-1995, Australia saw sharp increases in the number of overweight or obese, and conservative estimates suggest that this is increasing by at least 1% per year. These figures do not auger well for the future health and wellbeing of our communities” (NSW Department of Health, 2007). According to this statement, obesity is becoming more prevalent today and percentages are increasing every year. “The 2007/08 national health survey results indicate that 24.9% of children aged 5-17 years are overweight or obese” (Department of Health and Ageing, 2008). The Department of Health and Ageing, (2008) states “the consequences of childhood obesity is its persistence into adulthood”. In most cases when a child has been diagnosed as overweight or obese, the prospects of them becoming healthy and active in adulthood is low, which reinforces why encouraging physical activity and healthy eating habits is of paramount importance at an early age. “Once a child is overweight or obese it is unlikely that they will spontaneously revert to a healthy weight, predisposing them to many health concerns and suffering from an increase in medical conditions” (Department of Health and Ageing, 2008). Physical activity at school and at home can help to reduce and prevent childhood obesity. Teachers can create and introduce specific programs into their lesson content to help address and control obesity. Implementation of these programs can give primary school children the necessary understanding of the importance of physical activity, good nutrition, rest and sleep and a healthy active lifestyle. Using these opportunities to educate students about obesity and the ramifications of such should be considered as part of compulsory educational programs. Involving parents and making them aware of this issue should be considered also, as a child’s home environment can have a big influence on their physical activity, nutrition and lifestyle. “Obesity seems to have some genetic basis, but environmental factors, such as family eating patterns and...
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