Beating Back to School Fitness Blues

The return to school is just around the corner for many local school districts. It’s time for the annual transition from active outdoor play to more time spent sitting in school, shuttling between activities and, perhaps, a diminished focus on fitness goals. The busy school schedule can end up with healthy meals unintentionally replaced with grab-and-go snacks. However, there are several ways both parents and schools can maintain or increase healthy, active lifestyle choices during the coming school year.

Start planning your fall activities now and work toward achieving a goal. One event many area schools are planning for this fall is the one-mile MCM Kids Run hosted annually by the Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) in October. This event, held the day prior to the Marathon in the Pentagon North Parking lot, is open to children ages 5 to 12. Many schools participate in this event as a way to reinforce goal setting, establish running programs, and offer a positive fitness experience. Lynbrook Elementary School in Springfield, VA has participated in this event since its inception.

“The children in grades 3-6 have a fitness portfolio,” explains Jed Bobier, a nine-year physical education teacher at Lynbrook Elementary School. “They set goals for the Virginia Wellness Test, and we remind them to do their best in PE every day. The kids become more confident and try harder as the year progresses. They can see their progress, and that helps tremendously with self-esteem.”

Though running provides excellent health benefits, it is just one of many fall physical activities in which students may wish participate. Other activities include football and indoor swimming that offer cardiovascular benefits similar to running. Local YMCA branches and community rec centers offer sports programs tailored to specific skill and age levels. For example, the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington offers T-ball, blastball, and baseball in a progressive program that emphasizes proper technique in a manner geared toward a memorable, fun, and rewarding experience for each child.

Parents can help by setting positive examples and remaining active with their kids whenever possible. Put on those family dancing shoes! Whether it’s Just Dance or your family favorites singing from a trusted IPod, dancing is fun activity for everyone in the family. Rock climbing, laser tag, or even bowling offer parents a chance to model healthy behaviors and demonstrate a life-long commitment to health and fitness. 

Students must also eat appropriate snacks in order to properly fuel their bodies for sustained energy levels. One simple way to sneak in nutrition is to prepare homemade granola bars with ingredients such as peanut butter, honey and wheat germ. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website ChooseMyPlate.gov offers My Plate Kids’ Place, a page geared toward children’s nutrition and education. Here, parents and children can find recipes created by kids along with games and activity sheets focusing on proper nutrition and physical activity.

While many students face the back-to-school blues, a renewed commitment to activities, healthy eating, and shared fitness experiences can boost family team spirit. Once the family has gotten the running bug at the MCM Kids Run in October, there’s the Turkey Trot Mile on Nov. 22 aboard Marine Corps Base Quantico, VA to stay motivated.  The Turkey Trot is hosted by the Marine Corps Marathon – participants need not be military to participate in this family favorite event.  

Sandra Osborn-Peters is the MCM Community Relations Coordinator. Parents can register their kids individually for the MCM Kids Run via the MCM website, and schools can register groups of students by contacting her at [email protected]

Articles in the Healthy Kids Series are presented by the Marine Corps Marathon’s Kids Run. No federal or Marine Corps endorsement implied.

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Washington FAMILY Staff

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