Every school, every single school, should have a walking and running program. Many of my friends' children have become runners, and even the ones who are not are inspired - if not required - by their parents to be active and eat a healthy diet. But how do we, as a society, inspire all parents to shoulder their responsibility to do everything within their power to raise healthy kids?
Seriously. Isn't that the most basic responsibility of every parent? And no one is in a better position to have the impact a parent can have. Parents control what food is in the house and what restaurants the family visits. Unfortunately, too many depend on fast food restaurants to provide most of the family's nutrition and allow hours of TV in lieu of physical activity, while modeling a completely sedentary lifestyle, themselves.
This must change, but changing something as basic as the behaviors of millions of parents is a task that will take generations. We don't have that much time. Many of today's children will die early deaths if they do not change their ways.
With a large percentage of parents failing to teach and model a healthy lifestyle, the responsibility falls entirely to the schools.
I used to be a teacher, an English teacher. We had six periods in the day, and I always thought - and I'm not kidding - that there should be two classes of English because Engish includes writing, reading, grammar, vocabulary, SAT Prep and much more.
Anyway, when I pull back and look at the much bigger picture, I realize my myopic view. The fact is the single most critical subject just might be P.E. Our children have become ridiculously sedentary, and the result has been a host of health issues, the most serious of which is probably obesity.
I can't speak for the rest of the country, but would you believe that in Florida a high school student can get credit for taking Personal Sports online? And due to the emphasis on standardized test performance, P.E. class time and, even, teacher-supervised recess is getting squeezed out of the picture at a time when school cafeterias serve mostly pizza, fries, and chicken wings.
I don't have the solution, but I write this in the hope of stimulating conversation. If children, during the formative years are not fit and do not learn how to achieve and maintain fitness, the other subjects become much less relevant, don't they?
A required walking and running program would have the potential to drastically alter this picture. Of course there are many and varied options for appropriate levels of activities that foster cardio health, coordination, strong muscles and bones and calorie burning. I suggest walking and running because they are so universally affordable. Any school can afford these programs if they will find the time in the schedule, and any student and that student's parents can afford to begin a walking or running program outside of school hours.
Running for kids should be a hot topic in the running community. This needs to start in the earliest years when children will internalize a lifetime love of fitness if it is presented in the right vein, and by that I mean in a fun, low intensity, non-competitive atmosphere.
We need to figure out how to make this happen. We need to do everything we can to get kids on the run.