Learning to Be Active in the Classroom A First Step to Combat Obesity Levels

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Canadian youth are becoming overweight and obese at an alarming rate and physical activity programs delivered right in the classroom, such as 2010 Legacies Now's Action Schools! BC and SportFit, are providing tools that can help reverse that trend.

The recent Canadian Health Measures Survey by Statistics Canada compared the fitness levels of children and youth from 1981 to 2009. One key finding was that the percentage of boys aged 15-19 considered overweight or obese rose a surprising 14% to 31% during this time. Among girls in the same age group, the percentage rose from 14% to 25%.

By providing school and classroom activities, teachers are showing students how to be active in their everyday lives. Action Schools! BC provides teachers with easy-to-follow resources and training workshops so they feel confident leading daily, customized classroom activities.

"Action Schools! BC has achieved unprecedented success worldwide," said Heather McKay, Director, Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver General Hospital and senior advisor for Action Schools! BC. "Published evidence from our evaluation notes that children randomly assigned to Action Schools! BC schools engaged in more physical activity, were 25 per cent more aerobically fit and had stronger bones at the end of the study compared with children in schools that did not participate." 
 
More than 20,000 teachers and 500,000 students have registered with Action Schools! BC (www.actionschoolsbc.ca) since it started in 2003. Depending on the need, teachers can lead calming activities for their class, or ones that help burn up energy. A sample of the many resources include:

  • Chair aerobics exercises: Jump2bFit CD
  • 65 Energy Blasts DVD
  • Yoga Kit for Kids book, cards and music CD
  • Stretch Your Imagination Muscles Poster
  • 6 Fit Kids' Workouts DVD
  • The Joy of Juggling: The Book
  • Helping our youth become active is important—children and youth say they spend twice as much time in front of a TV or computer screen than they do being active, according to Active Healthy Kids Canada. 

    Another 2010 Legacies Now program, SportFit (www.SportFitCanada.com), supports teachers by offering a sport discovery and education program via an interactive website. It aims to get children and youth interested in finding out more about sports and recreation online.

    SportFit begins by measuring physical abilities through the SportFit Challenge, which is typically led by teachers and student leaders. In the SportFit Challenge, students run through eight activity stations to measure their strengths and then answer an online questionnaire about their sport preferences. SportFit analyzes these results and lists three summer and three winter sports for which they may be suited. Once they discover sports that may fit their personal strengths and preferences, they use the online resources to learn more about them, such as their history and where to find local clubs and organizations in their own community.

    "We use it as a pre-test and post-test to measure fitness improvements throughout the year," said teacher Lise Goertz from Golden Ears Elementary School, one of more than 610 schools in the province that have run SportFit Challenges. "The added bonus of the kids getting feedback on sport aptitudes and learning about new sports is a true motivation for all!" 

    Bruce Dewar, CEO of 2010 Legacies Now adds: "SportFit and Action Schools! BC have been models of success for British Columbia in several ways. Teachers and administrators have adopted these programs for physical activity and are using them in every corner of the province. In doing so, we help inspire children and youth to make healthy living choices that can remain with them for life."

    SportFit is a partnership of 2010 Legacies Now, the Province of British Columbia, the Government of Canada and CTV. Action Schools! BC is offered by 2010 Legacies Now with support from the Province of British Columbia.