Just like math, English and science, physical activity must be a core part of the public school curriculum. It’s just too important to ignore.
Childhood obesity is an increasing epidemic as more young people are lured to video games and television rather than the swingset outside. The statistics are staggering.
In 1978, only 15 per cent of children were overweight or obese. By 2007, Statistics Canada found that 29 per cent of adolescents had unhealthy weights, according to the Childhood Obesity Foundation. Most adolescents do not outgrow this problem and, in fact, many continue to gain excess weight. If current trends continue, by 2040, up to 70 per cent of adults aged 40 years and over will be either overweight or obese.
If those numbers don’t move you, the cost to taxpayers will. In 2005, the total cost of obesity to Canadians was $4.3 billion; $1.8 billion in indirect health care costs, and $2.5 billion in indirect costs.
But of course, the real tragedy of childhood obesity can’t be summed up in simple numbers. Our young people are getting sick because of their weight and we need to do whatever we can to stop the problem.
One way to tackle this is through the public education system. Although school budgets are tight, it’s important that districts continue to provide substantial physical education programs for students. Also, we need more innovative initiatives to help combat child-hood obesity.
The “Bring Back Play Fun-mobile” is a great example of this.
This travelling fitness campaign, sponsored by Partici-pACTION organization and the province, is touring 26 B.C. communities visiting schools and events to encourage more play and physical activity among children. The initiative is in response to the fact that an appallingly low seven per cent of children in Canada are active enough to meet Canadian physical activity guidelines. Less than half (46 per cent) of the nation’s children are getting just three hours or less of active play per week, including weekends.
Kelly Murumets, the president and CEO of ParticipACTION, told the Daily News that it’s important to provide kids with the unstructured active time that used to be part of every childhood.
“Let’s offer them options besides computers and television and work with our neighbours to address safety concerns so that our kids have the chance to run around freely, let loose and direct their own activities,” she said.
That’s an excellent point. However, we still feel that an adequate amount of “structured” active time through the public school system is also a vital part of ensuring children stay fit.