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Eco-Schools USA’s Healthy Living Pathway to Get Students Outside and Active
Schools prepare students for the future, and a lifetime of good health is one of the most important legacies we can give to our children. Unfortunately, America’s youth are up against some steep odds:
- Childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades, with one in three children now considered overweight or obese.
- Children play outside less today than in any other generation in human history.
- Meanwhile, the average child spends more than seven hours in front of electronic screens daily.
- The use of antidepressant drugs for children has risen sharply, and the U.S. is the largest consumer of ADHD medications in the world.
But here’s the good news. Time spent outdoors, physically active, and engaged in unstructured play is perhaps the best possible prescription for what ails our kids. It helps children grow lean and fit, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression and stress, improves vision, and decreases symptoms of ADHD. It also boosts classroom performance; just this week, a new study connected cardiovascular fitness with higher standardized test scores. In addition, children who spend regular time in nature become better stewards of the environment.
Schools have a critical responsibility—and opportunity—to set students on course for a lifetime of healthy lifestyle choices. Today, the Eco-Schools USA program officially launched a new Healthy Living pathway designed to provide schools with tools to promote physical activity, regular time outdoors, and creative play.
The Healthy Living pathway is designed to empower schools to:
- Enable more students to walk or bike to school
- Use the school grounds as an outdoor classroom for hands-on, active learning
- Restore recess as a vital part of every school day
- Strive for a better balance between “screen time” and “green time”
- Make physical fitness and outdoor time a priority for students and staff alike
- Extend these values home to families and out into the community
The Healthy Living pathway works in concert with Eco-Schools USA’s related Healthy Schools pathway (launched earlier this year), which focuses on the physical environment at schools—the building and grounds. Together, the two pathways also provide support for schools addressing the “Healthy School Environments” pillar of the new federal Green Ribbon Schools award program, which calls for “high standards of nutrition, fitness, and quantity of quality outdoor time for both students and staff.”
To find out how to become an Eco-School, visit the Eco-Schools USA website. To learn more about the current state of children’s health—and how a resurgence in outdoor play can reverse the downward trends—visit the Be Out There campaign.