Our View: Too many of our students are obese and it’s time to
take this problem seriously
As you sit upon your couch this day after Thanksgiving, feeling sluggish and sleepy at the thought of the number of calories, carbohydrates and fat grams you consumed, and are unable to move yourself off the couch and away from the football on television, take a few minutes to consider the problem of obesity in Gilroy’s children.
The California Center for Public Advocacy released sobering statistics recently: Gilroy has the highest percentage of overweight children in the county, with 31 percent. Neighboring Morgan Hill’s rate is 23 percent; San Jose’s is 27 percent; and Palo Alto’s is 13 percent.
Combine these statistics with others released in recent years showing physical fitness rates well below state averages among Gilroy students, and it’s clear that no matter how you look at it, Gilroy has a serious problem.
We’ve harped on this subject numerous times in the past, but clearly, it’s time to raise the topic again: Our community must insist upon time for daily physical education in our public schools. If that means extending the school day for 30 or 40 minutes to fit it into the schedule, so be it.
It’s that important.
Here’s what we said in 2004: “Obesity is a serious health issue. It’s associated with higher risks of many diseases – including heart disease, stroke and diabetes – and shorter life spans. Just like all habits, good or bad, it’s important to hook kids on physical fitness when they’re young. One of the very best ways to do that is with regular, high-quality P.E. classes in schools.”
Here’s what we said in 2003: “Physical fitness reduces health problems caused by inactivity, primarily obesity. Childhood obesity has doubled since 1980. This easily prevented problem is associated with higher risks of many diseases, including heart disease, stroke and diabetes, and shorter life spans.”
Clearly, physical fitness – like literacy, math skills and science knowledge – has lifelong benefits that help society. But that’s not all. Physical fitness is associated with improved academic performance. And getting the opportunity to burn of some pent-up energy in the middle of the school day can help students learn a healthy way to deal with tension and can lead to better behavior in the classroom.
Who on the school board will champion this simple, yet essential, cause?
Let’s put away short-term excuses that we can’t afford to have physical education in our schools. The truth is that we can’t afford NOT to have it. Perhaps our trained physical education teachers can show regular classroom teachers how to lead meaningful fitness instruction on the days the P.E. teachers aren’t available. Excellent teachers will find ways to incorporate P.E. into their classroom instruction, like graphing game scores or tallying runs or writing about games and experiences.
There’s simply no way to provide Gilroy’s students with high-quality, daily physical education without extending the school day. Let’s put this item on the teacher contract negotiation list and get it done.
It’s simply too expensive to ignore this problem any longer.