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August 17, 2017

Making Health Fun for Kids

This post was written by Susan Spencer, Editor-in-Chief of Woman’s Day

My 13-year-old daughter is outside on the trampoline in our backyard. She bounces languidly for a moment, then propels herself forward into a graceful flip. For a millisecond, she seems to pause in midair, her shiny ponytail turning in slow motion. She lands square on her feet, a smile spreading across her face. Then has another go. And another.

She can (and does) spend hours like this. Jumping, and indeed most physical activity, seems to be a balm for her. Her phone lies buzzing on the kitchen counter while she’s outside; there’s no friend drama, no homework pressure, no needling anxiety about the larger world.

How I wish I could bottle that moment on the trampoline and bring it to the place where she spends much of her time: school. In her elementary days there was recess and the sheer happiness of just running around; now, in middle school, her phys ed class — one of the only periods when she isn’t in a classroom — isn’t exactly a time of unbridled joy, but it could be .

In fact, when schools focus on incorporating more physical activity into the day and offering better foods (and making these healthy habits truly fun), the results are mind-blowing. In our September issue, Woman’s Day partnered with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation to report on its America’s Healthiest Schools campaign . In the story, we highlighted a number of innovative schools that are inspiring kids — and staff — to make wellness a priority.

At Wells Middle School in Riverside, CA, a physical education teacher started a running group that focuses on motivating kids to get started, even if it’s just by walking a lap. There’s a mandatory 20-minute “fit break” for students and staff at 1 p.m. every day at Robert C. Hatch High School in Uniontown, AL. The children at Colonial Hills Elementary School in San Antonio cultivate gardens where they grow their own produce. In these schools, staff, kids, and teachers are smarter, happier, and more focused.

As adults, we know how important it is to find balance (or some semblance of it) and detach from work — it brings the fresh perspective that is critical to basic functioning. So here’s my question: Why aren’t we helping our kids do the same?

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation is asking parents to sign a pledge to ensure that a culture of wellness pervades our schools. You can sign it at www.healthiestschools.org, where you can also access lots of great ideas on how to bring wellness into your kids’ school. Another thing parents can do is model the joy of physical activity. That’s why I’m heading outside right now to get on the trampoline with my daughter. We’ll hold hands and jump toward the sky, a reminder of how health gives us infinite possibilities and the ability to soar.

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