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Marci Warhaft-Nadler

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Students Must Exercise Both Body and Mind to Be Successful

Posted: 03/20/2013 12:54 pm

CBC News Toronto just posted an article stating that less than 50 per cent of elementary school students are getting daily exercise. While I'm not at all shocked by their report, I do find it incredibly frustrating. Not only has this been a problem for quite sometime now, it doesn't seem like there are very many plans in the works to change it.

If kids today aren't as healthy as they used to be and if, as so many TV commercials are telling us, they aren't getting nearly enough exercise and are at risk for a plethora of health concerns down the road, can't our schools help us out? Since not all families can affored extra curricular activities or may have a problem with transportation, shouldn't we be working together on this?

Our kids are in school most of the day and need a chance to move around, get their hearts pumping and blood flowing. It's been proven that just 20 minutes of sustained, vigorous exercise helps kids learn better, which is why Ontario introduced the "Healthy Schools Initiative" in 2005 which ensured that kids got up and moved for 20 minutes everyday.

Sadly, this program has pretty much been abandoned. I don't blame the teachers. Most of them would love to give their students a chance to re-energize during the day but feel that their schedules just don't leave them ample time to do it.

What's worse is how often gym is the first class to be cancelled when there's an issue with over scheduling and all of a sudden the scheduled two gym classes a week get cut to only ONE. Now factor in those days when it's too rainy or snowy for outdoor recess and the kids are kept inside all day. The situation is a grim one.


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  • Combination Classes

    Spoga? Not really, but combination classes are one trend to look out for in 2013, according to <a href="http://www.infinitefit.ca/about/about.html">personal fitness trainer Jessica Zapata of Edmonton, Alta</a>. Zapata says people who love yoga and spinning, for example, can incorporate both types of exercises in one — something she has already seen at her own gym with a class called 'Spinyasa Yoga.' "Other popular ones are spinning class and pilates, those are wait-listed every week," she says.

  • Hot Yoga

    Get ready to sweat! While already on the radar for the past few years, hot yoga will continue to soar in popularity next year. Composed of yoga positions performed in hot or humid conditions, for 2013, the experts at GoodLife Fitness say this kind of yoga, along with more accessible types, will allow <a href="http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1091325/top-10-canadian-fitness-trends-for-2013">consumers to both exercise and be zen with their minds, bodies and spirits.</a>

  • Demographic-Specific Programming

    Sure, kids are cute, but you probably don't want them in your gym with you. The experts at GoodLife Fitness predict more demographic-specific programming for the year ahead, including targeted classes for older adults, <a href="http://www.goodlifefitness.com/teenfitness/">children and youth, and sport-specific classes for teens.</a>

  • Small Group Training

    Think of it like one-on-one training with five other people. Zapata says small group training (with an average class of six people) will also be popular in 2013, as it will let fitness lovers focus on their individual strengths and goals, while being in a class with others to support them.

  • Express Workouts

    Sometimes, you only have 30 minutes to spare. In 2013 (and every year, we would argue) people are looking for the most effective and speedy workout, according to GoodLife fitness experts. Classes like <a href="http://www.lesmills.com/cx30/about-cxworx.aspx">CXWORX, for example, can burn up to 230 calories in 30 minutes,</a> and are being offered at all sorts of gyms. Focusing on the core, as well as the butt, these workouts are meant to hit as much as possible in a minimal amount of time.

  • TRX

    TRX is a <a href="http://www.trxtraining.com/suspension-training#">suspension trainer program that uses your body weight to perform a variety of exercises</a> and allows you to control your own challenge levels. "TRX is already popular but it will grow even more in 2013," Zapata says.

  • Technology And Fitness

    Your fitness goals will follow your every step in 2013 — at least if you want them to. Experts at GoodLife predict there will be more apps, computer programs and websites in 2013 that will help both beginners and fitness professionals track their progress levels. For example, <a href="http://www.adidas.com/ca/micoach/">Adidas's miCoach</a> collects cardio movement data and builds targeted training programs for users.

  • Back To Basics

    Zapata also says that 2013 will have people going back to the basics. So yes, those sit-ups, push-ups and jumping jacks you hated in gym class will be showing up at your gym more often. "It's not just going to be about the trends. People want variety and they want results," she says.

  • Skipping Diets

    It's time for Atkins and the <a href="http://www.dukandiet.co.uk/">Dukan Diet</a> to say goodbye for good. In 2013, people will more likely stick to healthier eating habits than relying on fad diets, says Brad Taylor, <a href="http://www.fitliving.ca/">fitness trainer and owner of Fit Living</a> in Regina, Sask. "People are beginning to see that dieting doesn't work and it takes a lifestyle change to get results."

  • Corporate Wellness

    Experts at GoodLife predict that in 2013, more and more <a href="http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1091325/top-10-canadian-fitness-trends-for-2013">offices will take the initial step to provide wellness and fitness programs</a> for employees both inside the office and out. "With a healthy and active workforce, <a href="http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1091325/top-10-canadian-fitness-trends-for-2013">Canadian organizations will be able to increase productivity and morale</a>," they said in a press release.

The government is so quick to attack food as the problem but maybe that's because taking food out is easier than putting exercise in.

The truth is that as a parent, I'm less concerned with the food that's available at my children's school than I am with the physical activity that is NOT.

Recently, I was talking with some university students about the challenges they face when it comes to staying healthy at school and an issue that came up a lot was TIME. They don't feel that they have enough time to fit exercise into their schedules. I believe a big part of that is because from the minute they start school our school systems tell them that it's just not that important.

In many elementary schools, kids are supposed to have Phys Ed classes between one and three times a week (not enough in my books) and yet, I can't tell you how many times my kids have come home from school complaining that gym class was cancelled because they had an assembly or a presentation instead. Sometimes it's taken away as a punishment because the class was being too noisy or because they didn't finished their math lessons. It seems like gym class is the first one to be cancelled when teachers need to make room for something else and I'm just not OK with that. While it's become alright to cancel a gym class in order to get more work done in a different subject, you'd never hear a teacher say, "Well class, since we didn't finish our volleyball game, we'll have to miss math."

By the time most kids hit Secondary School, phys ed class becomes an option and once again the message this sends is that in order to succeed you must work hard at academics and if that leaves no room for physical activity, so be it. It's no wonder that by the time these kids get to University, they're feeling incredibly pressured to perform well academically and feel that making room for exercise is a luxury they can't afford.

A study out of Queen's University revealed that 51 per cent of female students between 18-25 years old reported binge eating due to stress and pressure to succeed academically and stress is also known to increase the risk of heart disease. Interestingly enough, exercise has been proven to be a great stress reducer!

If our school boards think they are doing our kids a favour by keeping them tied to their chairs and computers, they are sadly mistaken.

All the professional and financial success in the world means nothing if you don't live long enough to enjoy it.


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