Submitted by: Leslie Culpepper
Chapter 2: Physical Development and Health
Obesity and Other Eating Disorders
Since 1970, the amount of overweight children has tripled in the US (Bergin &Bergin, 2012). The World Health Organization acknowledged obesity as one of the number one health problems in developed nations (Bergin & Bergin, 2012).
Should this concern us? Absolutely! As teachers this problem of obesity is very concerning. Students that are obese are prone to have lower test scores than their peers that are slimmer, they are more apt to be held back a grade and they are less likely to go to college (Gardner, 2012). Obesity is linked to sleep apnea and can cause social and emotional problems (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Children that are obese are prone to be lonely, depressed, anxious, lacking in self control and are less likable by peers (Bergin & Bergin, 2012). Imagine that you are a child that has low self-esteem, are not sleeping at night because of sleep apnea and depressed because you have no friends. Now try to concentrate on school. Having all of these added factors makes it very hard to focus on school and reach your highest potential.
Researchers from the University of Missouri looked at data from more than 6,000 children in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study- Kindergarten Cohort (Conley, 2012). They gathered information from children who were starting kindergarten and followed them through fifth grade (Conley, 2012). Those students who were obese throughout the length of the study achieved lower scores on math tests compared to the children who were not obese (Conley, 2012). Obese students that are sad or anxious might have a more difficult time paying attention and are less likely to ask a question if they don’t understand (Gardner, 2012). The health risks associated with obesity might also interfere with schoolwork or cause students to miss class altogether because of asthma, diabetes or sleep disorders (Gardner, 2012).
In a recent study, obese children rated their quality of life and showed scores as low as children with cancer on chemotherapy (Baron & Marcus, 2010). If that doesn’t get you thinking about how we can do our part to decrease the number of obese children, what will?
As educators, what can we do to help with this epidemic?
We can be positive role models and eat healthy foods in front of our children. We can encourage fitness and demonstrate a healthy diet. We can let overweight students know that they are treasured no matter what their weight is to help with their self-esteem. We can be creative and add physical education into lessons. Maybe you could find a fun way to incorporate physical activity in your classroom.
Baron A. & Marcus, L. (2010, December 8) The Effects of Childhood Obesity. Retrieved from http://www.education.com/reference/article/Ref_Childhood_Obesity/?page=3
Bergin, C. C., & Bergin, D. A. (2012). Child and adolescent development in your classroom. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.
Conley, M. (2012, June 14). Childhood Obesity Affects Math Performance. Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/Health/childhood-obesity-affects-math-performance/story?id=16559097
Gardner, A. (2012, June 14). Does Obesity Affect School Performance?. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/14/health/obesity-affect-school-performance
What can you do to encourage healthy living at your student’s home or in the community?
Do you have ideas on how to incorporate physical activity into your lesson plans?
Does your school currently have a program to promote exercise and health?
Have you personally witnessed a child suffer in academics because of obesity?