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NYC Schools = Fitness Failures

Posted Oct 13 2011 7:52pm

Argh!  My blood is boiling after reading this article from NY Daily News regarding fitness programs (or lack thereof) in NYC elementary schools.  A city audit gave the schools a big ugly “F” (which stands for FAILURE, if you didn’t know) for not providing adequate physical education classes.  Most schools failed to meet the minimum requirement established by the city, stating that kids in grades K-3 should have P.E. daily while the older children should have class 3 times a week.  Some schools had NO gym classes AT ALL (which is infuriating) and only TWO schools out of 31 met the requirements.  Shame on you, NYC!!

Though, I can’t say this is a complete shock to me.  I’m fully aware that schools, especially in NYC, are seriously lacking in the health and fitness department.  Honestly, it’s old news.  But still… I’m disappointed.  The city and the schools know how bad the P.E. departments are and they know how much of an issue childhood obesity is… yet little is being done to correct the problem.

I understand that schools don’t get a lot of funding.  And without funding, something has to get cut.  But gym class?  It might not seem important, but kids need health and fitness classes as much as anything else.  Sure, being good at math or science will help them get a job when they’re older.  But if they don’t learn to take care of their bodies with proper nutrition and exercise, then what’s the point?  How can they expect to find jobs when they’re riddled with illness?  How can they except to live happy, fulfilling lives when they’re too obese to move?  I know this all seems a bit dramatic, but at least you get my point.

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: education is the key to better health.  And educating kids when they’re younger will help guide them to make better choices when they’re older.  Studies show that kids who get exposed to and excited about exercise at an early age are more likely to lead active lives after they reach adulthood.  Same goes for kids who are taught about nutrition and encouraged to eat good foods.  As an adult, it becomes much more difficult to quit old habits and adopt healthier ones.  Take a second to think about your bad habits.  Imagine how hard it is to break those habits after doing them your whole life.  It can be done, but it takes A LOT of time and effort, and chances are you’ll fall back into your old ways eventually.  It’s kind of like that saying, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.”  Okay, so maybe you can teach them new tricks… but it sure isn’t easy.

A good example of “educating kids helps them make better choices” would be the anti-cigarette classes they give in schools.  I remember having teachers in elementary school talk about all of the terrible things cigarettes did to your body and the awful pictures of charred lungs they showed us.  Well, recent studies have shown that the amount of heavy smokers has dropped by a significant percentage.  In fact, it’s the biggest drop EVER.  Why?  Because kids were taught what the long term effects were.  Sure, some of them still choose to smoke because it “looks cool” or whatever.  But since most had heard the same horror stories and seen the same gory pictures as I did, we knew better than to take a puff.  Unlike older folks who didn’t know any better when they started smoking, like my dad.  No matter how many times he quits, he ends up picking those cigarettes back up again.  Old habits die hard.

The same thing could happen with obesity.  Yes, obesity will probably never completely disappear.  It’s always been around and always will be.  But it doesn’t have to be a nation-wide epidemic.  Educating children about what’s out there, how healthy habits effect their lives, and what to do about it will give them the tools they need to make better choices.  Knowing what consequences they might suffer by eating, say, a hamburger will make most of them think, “Maybe I should go for that apple instead”.  With this kind of thinking, a much higher percentage of them will have the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives.  If not… obesity will become the norm.  And anyone who has seen “Wall-E” knows how terrifying that would be…

I’m sorry for going on such a rant, but this type of information irritates me to no end.  It’s like a personal attack on my beliefs and aspirations and everything this blog stands for.  This is exactly why I feel with the utmost passion that it is my responsibility to go back to school, get my masters in Physical Education, and carry on this crusade by educating future generations to be healthy.

But it’s not all on my shoulders… NYC and everyone in it is responsible.  Schools need proper funding, more than anything else in this city.  And schools need to find a way to incorporate fitness education into their curriculum.  Whether teachers take time out of their classes to do a little stretching or the schools reach out to volunteer programs for help, it needs to be done.

Here’s where I’m going to shamelessly promote New York Cares (who I volunteer with), who has TONS of programs around the city.  I personally lead two recreational projects for public schools (I teach dance to grades K-1 and yoga to preschoolers), and they have plenty of other projects along the same lines.  They are always looking to start new programs and need more volunteers to do them… so there’s definitely that option for schools that can’t afford to staff a fitness program.  It also means that YOU, Average American, can sign up and help kick obesity in the butt.  Just sayin’…

Okay, end rant.  But tell me, what do you think about the lack of P.E. programs VS. the obesity epidemic?  What do you think could/should be done to fix it?

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