The obesity epidemic did not result from conscious decisions by children to gain weight or by parents to over feed their children or discourage them from being active. Lack of time has made us more reliant on fast or processed food. Sprawling suburban neighborhoods without sidewalks have reduced opportunities for children to walk to school. Concern about neighborhood safety has reduced opportunities for children to play outside. School cafeterias often sell attractive high-calorie foods to make the money they need for some of their expenses.
Although family rules about food and television time are essential, efforts must be made to make schools and communities healthier places for children. Some of these changes can come from active parent-teacher organizations that push schools to serve healthier options in cafeterias and vending machines, restore physical education programs, or stay open so communities can use the gyms after hours. Efforts to require new schools and parks to be located in neighborhoods where children can walk to them will encourage children to be more physically active. Walking to school with your child and other children is a twofer— it gives you and your child the health benefits of physical activity and can be a special time for talking.
Push Your Local School Board to Make Physical Education a Priority
While many schools reduced physical education to meet the requirements of the federal government No Child Left Behind Act, some states have more recently begun to restore it. If you live in one of those states or communities, make sure your child’s school has a physical education program. If your child already has such a program, make sure it is a quality program taught by a physical education instructor who keeps children moving for most of the class time. Also push for healthy choices in lunch lines and vending machines. Get involved with your parent-teacher organization or school wellness council to ensure that school meals and snacks offer varied, healthful, and low-fat food choices.