By Melanie Lynch, SHAPE America 2016 National Health Education Teacher of the Year
In today’s world where students’ lives are cluttered with part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and social media, sometimes they neglect the basics for thriving: eating healthy and staying physically active. As a result, too many students come to school with low energy levels and are not ready to learn. Summer time is the ideal time to “recharge” their batteries before heading back to school.
Tom Rath’s children’s book, The Rechargeables: Eat Move Sleep, illustrates the basic necessities for “recharging” in three simple steps. I’d like to offer one more necessity to encourage the students in your life to completely recharge — active leisure!
What you do gives you energy
Moving and doing is critical to energy levels. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that kids 6 to 17 years old get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day. What does this look like for kids that don’t consider themselves athletes? For the growing number of sedentary students, it is the little things that can make a big difference. Encourage students to set goals for themselves and make moving a daily part of their routine. Some simple physical activities they can do include taking the stairs while at the movie theater, walking the dog, or walking instead of driving to a friend’s house when possible. SHAPE America – Society of Health and Physical Educators has free activity calendars with daily ideas. And, when students head back to school, let’s encourage classroom teachers to use more activities that get kids moving throughout the day.
Moving gives us energy, but we need more
Eating the right foods is essential to fuel our bodies and recharge efficiently. Every student knows that you need to eat to live, but do they know that eating well means living well? How can we help them know what “eating well” means? With the availability of so many processed and empty-calorie foods and beverages, many students are trying to fuel their bodies with things that actually sap their energy! Encourage them to practice creating a variety of healthy meals for their whole family using ChooseMyPlate.gov, incorporating each of the building blocks for a healthy diet.
Eating the right foods and moving gives us energy, but we still need more
Sleeping is non-negotiable. A day without sleep compromises everything. If the kids and students in your life are anything like mine, they are consistently falling short of meeting their sleep needs. Video games, texting, social media, and yes, even homework, can often become a priority over sleep. Like eating well and staying active, we cannot simply tell students how much sleep their body needs and expect them to do it; we have to teach prioritizing and time-management skills. We can help students by showing them how to schedule a sleep time and build their daily schedule around it. My students often complain that they just cannot fall asleep on time! Part of their schedule needs to include an hour of relaxation before bedtime to ease them into restful sleep, making sure they “unplug” from electronic devices.
Moving, eating right, and sleeping gives us energy and recharges the body, but we still need more.
Active leisure recharges the soul
Active leisure is when students use their extra time to engage in a physical activity that they enjoy doing. Like adults, kids can often feel stressed, anxious or depressed at times. Active leisure is a way to stop and take a break from the chaos that life throws us.
I encourage you to inspire the kids in your life to fully recharge their batteries this summer by exploring new physical activities or revisiting the ones that have fallen to the way side because of other responsibilities.
Teaching kids how to recharge will help reach SHAPE America’s goal of 50 Million Strong by 2029. This call to action aims to ensure that by the time today’s youngest students graduate from high school in 2029, all of America’s young people are empowered to lead healthy and active lives through effective health and physical education programs.
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