Sitting on the desk in front of me is the school district Wellness policy, which covers child nutrition and physical activity. The School Board will consider revisions to the policy at its March 11 meeting. The policy states that “all students in grades K-12 will have opportunities, support, and encouragement to be physically active on a regular basis.”
I’ve found it hard to get enough physical activity this winter. The snow cover hasn’t always been ideal for cross country skiing, and the sidewalks have been slick with ice. January and February were filled with meetings, and I started the year with a recurrence of herniated disk pain in my neck. But this week, with my neck feeling better and my schedule a little less packed, I decided it was time to start shedding my winter fat. Despite the ice-bound sidewalks, I walked from four to eight miles a day this week. Between Monday and Friday, I walked a total of 32 miles.
I started walking seriously in August 2010. Ten months later, I was forty pounds lighter, with lower blood pressure and a cholesterol level that was no longer in the danger zone. My mood was significantly improved as well. All of this was accomplished through daily walking, a healthier diet, and smaller portion sizes. By July 2011, I was in shape to walk the hundred-mile West Highland Way in Scotland, which included a couple of strenuous twenty-mile days and ended with an ascent of Ben Nevis, the highest peak in Great Britain. In October 2011, I blew away the competition in the Carleton College pedometer challenge, walking 85-miles in five days.
Not everyone has the time to walk five miles a day, let alone seventeen. But it should be possible for children and adults to meet the CDC recommendation of one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. And schools should do their part to encourage such activity. Among the CDC recommendations:
- Schools should offer at least 20 minutes a day of recess in addition to PE classes.
- Schools should incorporate physical activity breaks between lessons or classes, and physical activity should be incorporated into lessons and classes themselves.
- Students should be encouraged to walk or bike to school.
According to the CDC, breaks for physical activity during the school day increase on-task behavior and boost student academic achievement.