School systems increasingly are being asked to play a more active role in combating childhood obesity while at the same time improving children’s scores on standardized tests in core academic areas. Many states have already passed, or are currently considering, legislation that increases the requirements for weekly minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) during school, especially at the elementary school level. Many also have placed restrictions on what kinds of food and drink may be sold or served to students at school. Teachers and administrators wonder how they can fit more physical activity, physical education, and nutrition education into an already-packed school day while still doing the things they feel are necessary to boost students’ academic performance in a high-stakes testing environment.
Luckily, the twin goals of improving students’ health-related fitness and their academic performance do not conflict with one another. Research shows that when students engage in more physical activity and are more physically fit, they perform better academically and have better behavior at school (see Also of Interest). So the key is to find a program that effectively integrates physical activity and good nutrition in ways that complement schools’ overall mission, and that’s where Fitness for Life: Elementary School comes in.
Because Fitness for Life: Elementary School is structured to include short physical activity classroom breaks, and because the physical activities can be led via plug-and-play videos, any teacher can easily implement the activities into their regular classroom routine. This helps schools meet national physical activity guidelines as well as various state mandates.
The classroom physical activity breaks also provide interdisciplinary education, because they incorporate wellness messages on topics like nutrition as well as reinforce concepts from other subjects like math and science. Children are learning while they’re being active.
When implemented as a comprehensive school wellness program, Fitness for Life: Elementary School helps improve students’ physical fitness through the combined impact of classroom activity breaks, physical education lessons that provide maximum opportunity for MVPA, and reduced caloric intake through better nutrition. The approach is effective because it is based on authoritative guidelines:
For an excellent explanation of the development of the Fitness for Life : Elementary School program and the rationale behind it, watch this interview with author Chuck Corbin.