War on Childhood Obesity. We as a nation need to declare “War on Childhood Obesity” and most experts agree that the two most effective ways of combating childhood obesity are:
(1). Provide more age-appropriate physical fitness opportunities or exercise and,
(2). Provide healthier diets.
Winning this “War on Childhood Obesity” can be accomplished for all of our nation’s children and the battlefields for this “War” should be on the playgrounds of America. We can fight this epidemic on Early Learning Facility Playgrounds, School Playgrounds, Park Playgrounds and other Community Playgrounds. In this way, we can reach all of our children and provide opportunities to teach and build healthy habits and healthier lifestyles.
To most effectively win this “War” and have lasting positive life-style changes, we need to redesign or supplement our existing playgrounds with more beneficial opportunities such as, nature/fitness trails, gardens and outdoor classroom areas. These are easy renovations and everyone can be involved in the building, including the children.
Outdoor learning areas and gardens can be used to teach about the environment and provide hands-on experiences to connect children with nature. Planting a garden helps children learn about the growth process, the environment, eating healthier, and appreciating a variety of healthy foods. These early lessons can lead to life-long healthier lifestyles.
Fitness trails can provide healthy exercise opportunities with age-appropriate fitness stations and with an accessible trail for walking, skipping, hopping, running or other physical activities.
These areas and play opportunities are considered “suggestive play” and they provide more physical, social, emotional, and cognitive health benefits than the traditional equipment-based or “prescriptive” playgrounds since the children are free to use their imaginations and creativity.
Positive results are expected since the playgrounds will be better designed to focus on the two most effective ways of combating obesity : (1) physical exercise and (2) healthier diets. Playgrounds are accessible to most all children and families in schools, early learning facilities and parks. Schools will be encouraged to get children outdoors more since research indicates that physical activity improves classroom performance and more emphasis is being placed on environmental learning.
To promote these programs and ensure their success, information can be sent to schools and communities regarding the benefits which include physical, social, emotional, and cognitive benefits for children, along with cost-saving benefits in terms of health and safety, and the easy Do-it-Yourself plans or resources for creating these cost effective environments.
Contacting the Departments of Education, the Departments of Health, the National Recreation and Parks Association, NAEYC, and other child health and education advocates would help further this initiative. Then of course, The Partnership for a Healthier America Challenge is a means to the End Childhood Obesity.