Schools are charged with the crucial task of ensuring that all students have the opportunity to learn in a safe environment that nurtures their intellectual, social, and physical growth. School district administrators constantly face challenging decisions about how to allocate an ever-shrinking pool of resources.
Some view schools solely as settings for education. But schools are also in a prime position to influence the health and behavior of children and adolescents. No other institution has as much continuous and intensive contact with young people. Moreover, research increasingly demonstrates the relationship between health and academic achievement, and schools are on the front lines of the battle against the childhood obesity epidemic.
Obesity and Physical Activity
It is projected that if the current rates of childhood overweight and obesity continue, today’s children will be the first generation of Americans with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
The two primary causes of obesity are excessive or unhealthy eating and lack of physical activity. If the ratio of calories in to calories out changes, so will a person’s weight. An excellent source of physical activity, or calories out, is an active trip to school. All modes of active transportation, including bicycling, walking, skateboarding, scootering, and “wheelchairing,” are good ways to meet the US Surgeon General’s minimum recommendations for daily physical activity.
Schools can significantly improve student health by raising awareness about active transportation and implementing policies, programs, and practices that encourage active transportation in their communities.