Obesity in School Children

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Obesity in school children
Children develop within a set framework and grow according to the levels of exercise and nutrition available to them as well as their particular genetic nature. In affluent countries such as Australia this growth can be affected by the lack of exercise and the consumption of too many kilojoules. Currently there are a large percentage of children who are verging on obesity or are obese, and this is an emerging cause for worry in today’s schools. Children today are not as active as previous generations, sometimes due to a lack of opportunity such as being driven to school instead of walking. Other reasons are less time outside and more time watching television and playing computer games. There is a much larger availability of nutritionally poor fast food today than there was for previous generations which have made children more vulnerable to becoming overweight or obese.

Schools and teachers can promote physical activity through many initiatives and programs. Implementing these initiatives early in a child’s learning can encourage healthy attitudes towards nutrition and exercise. (“Weight problems in childhood,” 2011) There are approximately one in five children and adolescents in Australia who are overweight or obese and if this rate increases at the level it is now the prediction for 2020 is that sixty-five percent of children will be in the overweight range. (“Obesity in Children,”2011) Some of the many factors causing this upsurge in overweight children appear to be coming from the lifestyles of families. Poor nutrition and bad eating patterns are a cause of obesity and families need to develop good nutritional guidelines to prevent obesity.

Physical activity in middle childhood (6-10 years)
Australian children do not spend as much time in active play as previous generations and watch television and play computer games as a large part of their recreation. (“Obesity in Children,”2011) Physical activity within the age range of middle childhood (6-10 years) should take advantage of the growing ability of the children to understand and follow rules and to participate in team activities. They are able to work collaboratively to develop planning and management skills required for successful competition. (Phases of development, 1998) The physical changes which occur in children during middle childhood (6-10 years) are gradual, constant increases in height and weight, advances in their gross motor skills and improved physical capabilities. (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2010. p. 161) Children at the lower end of this age range lose their baby teeth and progress towards skeletal maturity. A child’s cognitive development in middle childhood means spending less time in a pretend world and more time with real-life activities. They learn to read and write, gain understanding of rules in games and develop peer friendships. (Phases of development, 1998) During this stage of their development children also gain awareness of the differences they may have with others and will question the reasons for those differences. This social-emotional development can mean self-esteem issues may arise during this time. (McDevitt and Ormrod, 2010. p.5)

At the higher end of this age group children may engage in less exercise as they move towards adolescence. Teachers and schools need to promote healthy eating habits and regular exercise during this period of growth to strengthen the activeness enjoyed earlier in the age group and to help ingrain good habits for the next stage of the child’s growth. (Yager & O’Dea, 2005) Teachers should examine the community values of the children being taught to discover the most effective ways of promoting physical activity in their daily lives. The context of the child’s life will differ due to the values and structure of the environment outside of school’s boundaries. Teachers need to become aware of these differences and incorporate them into a program of teaching to promote...
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