Many classroom teachers who are trying to build a PE program have no fitness background and are unfamiliar with basic fitness guidelines for children. If you’re just starting to teach PE, it helps to develop a list of reliable resources about physical fitness and health. And I’d put the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at the top of that list.
The CDC is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is considered the preeminent public health organization in the United States. The CDC functions as an outlet for health information endorsed by our federal government, and it’s a valuable source of information on fitness for children.
Several sections of the CDC website provide key fitness guidelines specifically for children. Physical Activity Basics is a good place to start. There you’ll find a subsection titled “How Much Physical Activity Do Children Need?” It covers three main categories of exercise for children—aerobic activity, muscle strengthening, and bone strengthening. There are specific recommendations for each category, including perhaps the most-important fitness recommendation of all—kids should receive at least 60 minutes of exercise per day. Use this section to learn what types of activities are appropriate for what ages, how long should children do different types of activities, and how often should they do them.
Another part of the CDC website, Healthy Schools, offers access to several resources on improving children’s health in our schools. In particular, I recommend the School Health Guidelines section. It provides strategies and guidelines for creating a health-focused environment on school campuses.
As you build your PE program, it is vital to keep the basic fitness guidelines in mind. The CDC web pages provide a quick reference on the basics of exercise for children, and specifically, expectations for how schools can approach addressing the health of their children.
It’s time to give walking the recognition it deserves. Here are some benefits of walking that you can share with your students:
It’s easy! Just put on your shoes and go.
It can be a social activity. Walk and talk with a friend.
Walking is a great moderate-intensity aerobic exercise. You won’t develop the endurance to run a marathon by walking, but you will get some aerobic benefit—your heart and lungs will get stronger.
Walking strengthens muscles throughout the body, especially the legs. Even the important abdominal muscles receive some benefit from walking.
As you walk, your circulation rate increases, pumping more oxygen to the brain. The result? You’re more invigorated, which makes you more alert and better able to focus on important school work when you return to the classroom.
Walking is also an excellent pick-me-up. If energy levels flag in the classroom, try taking your students out for a 5-to-10-minute walk. See how they feel when they return to the classroom. I bet they’ll be better able to focus on their work!
Gretchen Reynolds is a health/fitness writer for the New York Times and she’s one of my favorites. A lot of Reynolds’ work focuses on Children and fitness, with an emphasis on children at school. Here’s another great article by Reynolds (Click here to view the article). Reynolds offers evidence that children who exercise after school experience a reduction in body fat and they perform better academically.
I found a great article this morning in a small publication from Texas. (To view the article, click here) The article focuses on children and energy drinks. Unfortunately, these drinks, including Red Bull and Gatorade, are often marketed directly to children and teens with boasts that they replenish electrolytes and improve athletic performance. But many of these drinks include high levels of sugar, caffeine or both. As the author mentions, professional athletes benefit from electrolyte replacement drinks during a vigorous workout, but not children. Before exercise, children are much better off eating a healthy meal, allowing time for digestion, then drinking water as they exercise.
I once taught with a 4th grade teacher who had a remarkably simple, yet effective, approach to teaching physical education. I’ll call her Brenda.
Brenda led her students out to the yard often. When she arrived at the edge of the grass field, she simply said “Go!” over and over again. Her students immediately started jogging around the yard. They continued for 5 to 10 minutes. Brenda brought her kids out more than any other teacher in our school, probably three days a week.
I noticed something remarkable when I tested Brenda’s students for the mile run. Her students outperformed not just the other 4th grade classes in our school, but all of the 5th grade classes as well! I attribute the success of her students in the mile-run test to the extra running they did with Brenda.
Brenda’s approach to teaching PE was to stick with simplicity, and it paid off. It would have been ideal if she could have built on her simple jogging program, adding other activities for variety. Yet the success of her students in the mile-run test illustrates that even short jogging sessions, carried out consistently over time, can have a great impact on your students’ performance!
I noticed this article from The Aiken Standard today, titled “HEALTH AND FITNESS: Preventing summer weight gain in kids.” The message of the article is a good one: Parents should me mindful of their children’s activity level and diet over the summer. However, I think the emphasis on preventing summer weight game taps into a delicate issue. In my K-5 PE classes, I intentionally avoid references to body-weight when discussing nutrition. I do this because I think elementary age students are too young to manage their weight with the same degree of responsibility as an adult. Instead, I focus on a simpler, kid friendly message in my classes: I often remind my students that they should eat healthy food and get an hour of physical activity per day.
I think the message of emphasizing to parents healthy body weight in children is fine. However, it’s worthwhile to mention that the message should be presented to kids in a way that’s appropriate. Over the summer, kids may be less physically active away from school. It would be totally ok to remind children that they should move throughout the day for a total of at least 60 minutes, while eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
Kids say funny things-I think most elementary school teachers would agree on this. I’ve noticed that kids are often at their funniest at times when they’re not trying to be funny; when they’re making a serious point. A while back, I decided to start writing down the funny lines spoken by my K-5 students. So here is the first installment of what I’m calling, “Kid Quotes.” I hope this brings a little humor to your day.
We had a very special guest earlier this week at Rancho School. For years, I’ve been telling my students about a man named Dr. Joel Kirsch. Dr. Kirsch is the President of the American Sports Institute in Mill Valley, California. He is extremely passionate about fitness, and it’s his goal to open a K-12 school that emphasizes both fitness and academics. In 2010, to gather support for his new school, Dr. Kirsch, performed burpee exercises with a push-ups, one step at a time, for 30 miles, from Novato to the Golden Gate Bridge. Dr. Kirsch did the burpees for 6 hours each day, for a total of 6 weeks!
On Monday, Dr. Kirsch visited our school and shared his personal story with our 4th and 5th grade students. Dr. Kirsch emphasized the fact that he was inspired to perform his amazing feat by others, and that our students should seek to set a positive example for others as well. And, yes…..he did perform some burpees! It was an absolute treat to host Dr. Kirsch!
To learn more about Dr. Kirsch and his amazing athletic feat, visit The American Sports Institute website by clicking here.
PE is about to begin. You’re walking with your students out to the yard. How should you start your class?
Your first item of business is to prepare your students to listen to directions. It’s tempting to ask students to gather loosely around you, but that’s not the best approach. All your students need to focus on you and be able to hear you. That’s easiest when each one has an unobstructed view of your face. Find a clearly defined area where your students can stand side by side in a simple formation—a single line, for example.
Here are some great ways to position your students for the listening-intensive start of your PE session:
Find a long painted line on the blacktop. Tell your students to stand with both feet on the line.
Tell your students to stand directly on the edge of the blacktop. If you have a grass field adjacent to the blacktop, tell your students to stand with their heels on the grass and toes on the blacktop.
If your blacktop has painted basketball courts, have your students stand along the curved arch of the key (which is near the free throw line).
Once the students are in position, and you have their attention, you can begin your PE class.
Our book, “PE by Design: The Classroom Teachers Physical Education Program, Grades K-5” includes many more class management tips. To purchase the book, click here.
On Friday, California State Superintendent of Public Education Tom Torlakson spoke in opposition to federal budget cuts that could impact school nutrition programs throughout the state. Torlakson was speaking at the Ninth Biennial Childhood Obesity Conference in San Diego. An article from the Santa Clarita Valley public television (click here) lists several programs which assist children and needy families that could be reduced or cut if President Donald Trumps proposals are carried through. I want to applaud Torlakson for his positions.