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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(Editor’s note: Today’s guest post is from Erick D. Smith, who is sharing his wisdom about after-school programs that are encouraging children to get more active and fit. Thanks Erick!)

It shouldn’t be real news to anyone that the United States has a horrible problem with childhood obesity. Everyone has heard the statistics and knows that something needs to be done if any progress is going to be made; finding a solution is the biggest hurdle. Many people say that we need an overhaul of our current health and PE lesson plans that are used in public schools; that may be a great answer. However, if a big change is going to be made, extra steps will need to be taken.

Most PE classes run about 40 to 45 minutes long, but probably only 20 minutes of actual exercise is performed. Although 20 minutes of exercise a day is good, it will hardly counterbalance the health epidemic going on. Another proposed idea to be coupled with an overhaul of the PE classes is to add a coordinated school health program, like an after school curriculum for exercise.

What this would do is add another way to keep children active and healthy. Although there are already different school sports that someone could join, many of the children in PE who are unfit are so because they don’t want to participate in those sports. Additionally, many children enter a cycle of low self-confidence that keeps them from participating in sports. It could be because they don’t enjoy competition, contact sports, or they feel insecure. Whatever the reason may be, they aren’t joining, so there should be some kind of extended PE curriculum.

The modernizing of PE classes has already begun; teachers and organizations are adding activities that more people enjoy, based more upon personal work ethic rather than competitive achievement. Such examples are skateboarding, dancing, rock climbing, and a myriad of other options. If these were extended to after school activities, sponsored by the school, then many children would be leading a far more physically active life, which is always beneficial to their health. Not only that, but it encourages healthy social activities, which will help them later in life.

It all comes down to budgets; it takes some extra money to fund such activities, but by encouraging healthy activities, they are far more likely to stay healthy with fewer health complications down the road in life, saving more money than the amount spent on the programs in many cases. Besides, isn’t it important enough to spend a little extra to keep our children active and healthy?

If this sounds like a good idea to you, then help this movement gain some ground. Research some programs that exist and are being applied to other schools and contact your child’s school to see what they can do. Perhaps you can help your children and the children of others lead a happy, healthy life.

Erick D. Smith is a blogger who lives in San Diego, California and writes about healthy living for SPARK, a physical education and wellness organization. Check out SPARK if you’d like to learn more about its programs, including current health and PE lesson plans.

Image courtesy of Jug Jones via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want their children to be fit.