Childhood obesity is on the rise. Though there have always been a high number of overweight children, it is obvious that there is more of a problem as each year goes by. This high rise in the rate of childhood obesity has parents looking for causes and cures.
There are a couple of obvious suspects. Parents often start with blaming the fast food industry. Fast food restaurants, such as McDonald’s and Burger King, serve foods that are high in fat. Parents fail to realize that they don’t have to serve this food to their child, and in turn they are adding to the problem when they purchase these foods. Thankfully, many fast food restaurants are starting to add more nutritional choices to their menus.
Parents also like to place blame in video games and television. Video games and television invite children to sit for hours on end, rather than going outside to play. As a result, many television shows are starting to encourage children to dance or exercise along with the characters. There are even video games, such as Disco Dance Revolution, that are designed to get children off their rear ends and start moving. After all, if you can’t get them away from the television, you can at least get them to exercise in front of it.
There are other factors involved as well. Genetics can play a major role. Medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism, often cause children to gain wait. Certain medications can also cause weight gain, which is concerning when you figure in how often children are prescribed medications.
However, one other contributing factor is often going unrealized. This is a source that comes as a shock to many parents. Schools are playing a major role in the rising number of children being affected by obesity.
In an effort to improve the education system, more schools are cutting out on times when students are active. Recess and physical education are being cut from our nation’s schools. Instead, children are required to spend more time sitting in their classrooms.
Children spend approximately six and a half hours at school every day. During this time, children are no longer allowed to take breaks for recess or physical education. When children get in trouble in class, they are often required to sit out, rather than enjoying what recess time they do have. Many schools are limiting recess to one day a week, and banning physical education completely. The lucky students get 15 minutes of recess a day, with physical education one day a week. It is becoming a very rare event to find a school that offers children more time than that to exercise during the day.
Many schools are also banning talking at lunch. Lunch time has become rushed, encouraging children to eat in a hurry so they can return to sit in class. Rushing through a meal often causes overeating, since your body doesn’t have time to realize when it is full. The loss of conversation time is also keeping children from releasing some of their built-up energy by talking to their friends.
Instead of getting a chance to get out their energy during the school day, these children are forced to bottle it inside. As a result, teachers often make the mistake of believing their students have behavior problems, such as ADD, and encourage parents to medicate their children.
When children get home from school, they frequently arrive with at least an hour’s worth of homework. By the time homework is completed, it is often starting to get dark outside. If it is not already dark, it is close to dinner time. All too often, it is hard to work play time into the day after completing the daily homework assignments.
Children need recess and physical education for a number of reasons. They need the break from learning to refresh their brains. They need the break to release some of the bottled up energy. Most importantly, they need the exercise! I wish more schools would fight to keep recess and physical education in their curriculum.