Childhood obesity refers to a condition where there is excessive body fat that negatively impacts on the health or wellbeing of a child. This is a serious medical condition that mostly affects children and adolescents. A child is said to be obese when he or she is above the weight that is normal for his or her age. The excessive weight is normally an issue for its opens the child up to many other health problems (American Academy of Pediatrics, p. 424). It can also result to low self-esteem and depression. Though this condition was rare in the past, it is currently among the most common medical condition affecting children all over the world. This is a problem that is mostly common in the developed nations such as the United States. According to the American Obesity Association, approximately 15 percent of adolescents and children are suffering from this problem in the United States. It is expected that these numbers will continue to increase. Childhood obesity is one of the greatest health challenges in the country. Using healthful, low-fat foods and vigorous exercises each day are some of the ways to protect children against obesity. Rigorous physical exercises are the most effective way of ensuring that excess calories are burnt in children to prevent obesity (Summerfield, p.9). To achieve this, public schools in Oklahoma should hold school for an hour longer each day and use that extra hour as a mandatory gym period.
The time spent by children at school is and continues to be a very important topic in the current education system. In Oklahoma and throughout the United States, policy makers are testing the hypothesis that increasing school hours will enhance performance and the quality of life for the children (American Academy of Pediatrics, p. 424). The interest in changing the system to include extra hours is motivated by the argument that the current education system was developed to fulfill the demands of farms and industries. The current therefore does not meet the demands of the 21st century education system. During the time, when the 180-day calendar was developed, obesity and other related medical problems were unheard of. Children would leave school and go home to help their parents at home or in the farms. Many aspects of life have changed (Goldberg, para 7).
All over the United States there have been calls to re-shape the structure of school day to increase the number of hours spent at school. Herbert, (2009) has been quoted in the New York Times arguing “we still have a hideously dysfunctional public education system, one that has mastered the art of manufacturing dropouts and functional illiterates. We have not even begun to turn that around” (Goldberg, para 1). Herbert is only one of the people in the country who hold this kind of sentiment. He is a representative of many supporters of the idea to amend the structure of the school day and the entire education system in the country. “Increased learning time means using a longer school day, week, or year schedule to significantly increase the total number of school hours to include additional time for (a) instruction in core academic subjects, including English; reading or language arts; mathematics; science; foreign languages; civics and government; economics; arts; history; and geography; (b) instruction in other subjects and enrichment activities that contribute to a well-rounded education, including, for example, physical education, service learning, and experiential and work-based learning opportunities that are provided by partnering, as appropriate, with other organizations; and (c) teachers to collaborate, plan, and engage in professional development within and across grades and subjects” (Goldberg, para 6). One of the states that have conferred with this argument is Oklahoma. Allowing an extra hour for physical activity in public school is important for the health, wellbeing and academic achievement of the children (Summerfield, p.13).
Some parents and other stakeholders have argued that having children an extra hour in school limits the time that the children need to spend with their parents. This will eliminate the constructive parental involvement in the wellbeing of their children. Parents need time with their children. As it is, children spend most of the day in school away from their parents. The involvement of the parent in the life of the child cannot be substituted. There are emotional and psychological needs, important for the child’s development, which can only be fulfilled by the parent. Where the ample time is eliminated or reduced due to increased time at school, there is emotional and psychological consequences to the child. After all, most parents provide some extra curricular activities to their children. Some parents spend quality time with their children at the park or participating in leisure games and sports. According to the opponents, these activities are more effective than having to punish children by holding them in school for more hours (American Academy of Pediatrics, p. 426).
The magnitude of the emotional and psychological issues resulting from spending less time with parents cannot equal the health problem resulting from the lack of exercises. Physical inactivity has been revealed to be one of the major contributing factors in childhood obesity. A research on physical activity where 133 children participated for a period of three weeks with the use of accelerometer in measuring the level of activity in the participants provided evidence to this argument. It was revealed that the children suffering from obesity 35 percent less active during school days and 65 percent less active over the weekends when compared with children who were not obese. Once a child is inactive, there are very high chances that he or she will be inactive as an adult (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, p.29). A research to study fitness where 6,000 adults participated provided evidence to this point. It was revealed that 25 percent of the participants considered active at the ages between 14 and 19 were also active later in life. This is compared to only 2 percent of the participants who were not active at the ages between 14 and 19, who were active later in life. Being physically inactive leaves a lot of unutilized energy in the body. Most of this energy is stored in the body as fat. Childhood inactivity is associated with childhood obesity in the US. More children in the country are tending to be overweight at very early ages (Summerfield, p.29).
Most of the parents are working. This means that getting time to participate in co-curricular activities with the children is not possible. Finding time to go to the park or playing leisure games and sports with the children is not as easy as it sounds. Even to those who are able to spare time to spend in these activities do so rarely. This is not helpful for the children, especially given the fact that most of this time will be spent eating snacks. When parents leave work and meet at home with their children, they are normally tired and want to relax. Others come home to be confronted with domestic chores. This means that they cannot find time to do physical activities with their children. Most of the children in the United States will tend to spend time at home doing stationary activities like playing video games or watching TV. During a research, a technology questionnaire was given to 4,561 children aged 14, 16, and 18 (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, p.33). It was revealed that children were 21.5 percent more likely to have excess weight when watching television for four and above hours each day. About 4.5 percent were more likely to have excess weight utilizing computers for one and above hours each day (American Academy of Pediatrics, p. 427)
Once children are out of school, they do not get to play with their peers. Proliferation of technology has translated into a more inactive (sedentary) lifestyle. Less that half of children in the United States have parents who encourage physical exercises, or who will encourage their children to go out to play with their peers once they are at home. Besides having a busy schedule, most of the parents are afraid for their children and will not let them take part in after-school sporting activities. This means that the children are locked inside the house until the following day when they leave for school (American Academy of Pediatrics, p.76).
Schools in the United States spend fewer days per school year as compared to schools in competitive schools in other parts of the world. As a result, the time available for learning is barely enough to cover the syllabus. It is estimated that only a third of children in the country have physical exercises everyday at school. This is the fault of the education system in the country where most of the available time is only enough for learning (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, p.76). Changing the structure of the school day in Oklahoma to include an extra hour for physical exercise is important for the children. This will give them enough time to exercise and use up the stored energy to avoid issues of obesity and other related health problems (American Academy of Pediatrics, p. 427). Having children spend a minimum of one hour of moderate-to-rigorous physical exercise each day is enough to prevent childhood obesity. Increased opportunities for children to engage in physical activity are an investment all the stakeholders in education should support (Summerfield, p.82).
To help prevent childhood obesity, public schools in Oklahoma should hold school for an hour longer each day and use that extra hour as a mandatory gym period. Obesity is one of the major health problems in children. It results from storage of excess fats in the body. Lifestyles have changed in the modern world, increasing the chances of children suffering from obesity. They are taking in a lot of food rich in fats, with limited opportunities to be involved in physical activities. Physical activities help in burning excess calories that are stored in the body into useful energy. At home, this is not likely. Therefore the move by the states should be supported to ensure that children are given enough opportunities to engage in physical exercises. This is one of most effective ways of fighting childhood obesity.
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