Healthy kids are better learners. Seems like common sense, right?
As director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK), a nonprofit organization that works with schools to fight childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity, I hear this observation echoed every day by teachers, principals and others on the front lines at schools across the country. And as a mom of two and an officer of my daughter’s parent group, I see it play out in my own kids’ classrooms.
Yet a staggering one-third of our nation’s schoolchildren are overweight or obese, putting them not only at an increased risk for a variety of health complications and chronic diseases, but also at a disadvantage in the classroom.
Like our partners at National PTA, AFHK believes that this statistic is both alarming and unacceptable. Fortunately, solutions are within reach, and they’re documented in our new report, The Learning Connection: What You Need to Know to Ensure Your Kids Are Healthy and Ready to Learn. The report, a follow-up to our 2004 landmark report, The Learning Connection: The Value of Improving Nutrition and Physical Activity in Our Schools, is a roadmap for educators, school administrators, parents and school volunteers to create healthier school environments. Here are just a few highlights:
- Students who attend schools that integrate student wellness are likely to have fewer absences, higher academic achievement and self-esteem, and are more likely to graduate from high school.
- Kids who get regular physical activity experience improvements in their fitness levels and brain function. Just walking or biking to school, for example, can prime the brain for learning.
- A review of 50 studies points to growing research that reveals that skipping breakfast hurts kids’ overall cognitive performance, which has a negative impact on their levels of alertness, attention, memory, problem-solving and math skills. By contrast, students who eat school breakfast have been shown, on average, to attend 1.5 more days of school per year and score 17.5 percent higher on standardized math tests.
- Schools can get a financial boost by offering students more nutritious meals and snacks, because when given the option, students will buy and eat healthier foods and beverages.
Read the full Learning Connection report here, and take AFHK’s Every Kid Healthy Pledge to learn how you can be a positive force for change in your school community to ensure that every child is healthy and ready to learn.
Amy Moyer is director of field operations for Action for Healthy Kids, the nation’s leading nonprofit and volunteer network fighting childhood obesity, undernourishment and physical inactivity by helping schools become healthier places so kids can live healthier lives.