Get ‘em moving

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The high rate of childhood obesity in this country is a well-documented health crisis that experts predict will have serious long-term consequences on our nation’s health. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported a significant decline in obesity among 2-5 year olds (down from 13.9 percent in 2003-2004 to 8.4 percent in 2011-2012), overall, about 17 percent of our nation’s children are still considered obese, a rate that is virtually unchanged since 2003-2004. The CDC defines obesity in children and adolescents aged 2 to 19 years as having a body mass index (BMI) at or above the 95th percentile on CDC growth charts.

The CDC lists many factors considered responsible for high childhood obesity rates. Among them are the increasing promotion and consumption of less healthy foods and sugary drinks, limited access to healthy, affordable foods and increasing portion sizes.

The non-food-related culprits named include an exorbitant amount of time spent using entertainment media, with children ages 8-18 spending an average of 7.5 hours per day watching television (4.5 hours) and playing computer or video games.

Another reason given is a lack of daily, quality physical activity in all schools. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service recommended at least 60 minutes of aerobic activity each day (2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans). Attending daily physical education classes would help many children achieve a healthy level of activity, yet in 2009 only 33 percent of students in grades 9-12 attended daily classes.

Which makes the announcement of the new Southampton County Public Schools Athletic Alliance all the more encouraging.

In discussing the new Alliance at a school board meeting last week, division superintendent Dr. Alvera Parrish said, “Our mission is to create more opportunities for students to move. We’re promoting the development of the whole child — mind and body — with meaningful and physical activity.”

With many students in Southampton County Public Schools only attending a physical education class as little as one day a week, there should be ample opportunity to significantly increase the amount of time children are engaged in physical activity. We wholeheartedly support this venture.