Why should the PTA host Family Fitness Activities?
The benefits of being "healthy" are not just physical. Being active can help you sleep better, reduce stress and make you feel happier. Additionally, physical activity can provide a way to have fun and learn to solve problems with family and friends.
One-third of American children and adolescents ages 2–19 are overweight or obese. Research also shows that obesity is associated with poor levels of academic achievement. Eating a well-balanced, healthy diet and getting the recommended amount of physical activity every day are important to maintaining a healthy weight and maximizing academic performance. PTAs can play an important role by engaging families, teachers, administrators and students in programs and activities that encourage the entire school community to be active and to eat healthy foods.
Below are two healthy lifestyle concepts to share with your families, as well as quick ideas and links to get you started with Family Events, Community Fitness Challenges and Year Long Initiatives to support a healthy and active school community.
Concept to Share: "Energy Balance"
For children, it's important that they think about, and strive to maintain a healthy "energy balance". This means that the amounts of energy in (nutrition) and energy out (activity) supports normal growth and development without promoting excess weight gain.
Energy Out >>The CDC recommends that children ages 6–17 get 60 minutes or more of moderate or vigorous physical activity each day. SHAPE America recommends that schools provide 150 minutes of instructional physical education for elementary school children and 225 minutes for middle and high school students per week for the entire school year.
Remind children that "Energy Balance" means:
Having enough energy to do all the things they want to do and to grow up strong and healthy
Practicing balance, variety and moderation in their diet
Being physically active for 60 minutes each day
Concept to Share: "Wellness Triangle"
Togethercounts, a partner of the National PTA reminds families and educators that there are three dimensions of wellness. The triangle includes:
Taking care of your body
Getting physical activity
Having good personal hygiene
Having healthy eating patterns and nutrition intake
Interacting with people around you
Getting along with others in a variety of settings and online
Liking who you are and accepting yourself
Expressing and processing emotions
Coping with the demands of daily life
Managing stress and pressure
Where Should You Start?
Consider starting with one or two family events or community challenges focused on good nutrition and physical activity to achieve a healthy active lifestyle.
Additionally your PTA may like to partner with your school on a year-long initiative to:
Use #FuelUptoPlay60 to connect with other schools making positive healthy changes. Use #HealthyCommunities to connect with other schools and families taking TogetherCounts Challenges Use #FireUpYourFeet to to connect with other schools and families tracking their activity with Fire Up Your Feet
What Can Your PTA Do?
Serve Family Breakfast (or Pastries for Parents, etc.): Invite your families to start their day with breakfast provided by the PTA.
Hold a Fun Run: Build school spirit and celebrate physical fitness with a fun run event - which can be held during school hours. Many schools use this as a fundraiser where students collect pledges for the number of laps around the track so allow yourself enough time to generate some excitement. You may also use this as a good opportunity to share healthy lifestyle tips. Make sure you have a track mapped out, some fun music, and a way to track the students (and teachers) as they make their laps around the course. Keep the event accessible and inclusive for all students and staff by offering alternatives to the run. End the Fun Run with a healthy snack.
Host a Family Fitness Night: Invite a fitness coach or yoga instructor to teach kids and parents fun exercises they can do at home. Ask the school nurse to be involved by providing blood pressure screening or a weighing station. Ask the Cafeteria Manager to help with a nutrition or healthy eating station - maybe provide some foods to sample. You may wish to reference the PTA's Energy Balance Toolkit and Leader Program Event Planning Guide.
Celebrate National Walk or Bike to School Day: Consider setting up an obstacle course for bikes/scooters/skateboards and asking the Sheriff's Department to teach a short class on bike/road safety and hand signals. You may also like to hand out the PTA's Bike Safety Flyer and visit the Walk & Bike to School website for event ideas.
Participate in Fuel Up to Play 60. An in-school nutrition and physical activity program sponsored by the NFL, USDA and National Dairy Council. It encourages students make positive healthy changes in their schools. All 32 NFL teams are involved with the Fuel Up to Play 60 program, and often visit schools. Participating schools may also apply for grants. (Loudoun PTAs - Ask your physical education teacher if you are already signed-up)
Participate in TogetherCounts school-wide challenges using a Together Counts “Home to School” activity sheet.Offer extra recess or a healthy snack to the class or grade that brings back the most signed Together Counts Activity sheets (indicating that their family completed both activities) during the challenge period. Together Counts posts new activity sheets seasonally. You can include program tips in your newsletter and on social media).
Participate in Fire Up Your Feet: Encourage school families to track their walking, biking or playing during a challenge period. Set a participation goal (number or percentage of families), and celebrate when it is reached. Schools with the most family and school staff participation have the chance to receive awards that can be used to help fund school-based health and wellness programs. This program is part of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership which promotes safe walking and biking to/from school and in daily life.
Issue daily PTA Healthy Lifestyles challenges through the morning announcements (e.g., "Challenge #1: Drink only water or low-fat milk today!"). Promote the challenge through the school's social media sites. Put a yard sign with the daily challenge in front of student drop-off locations so that families can embrace the challenge together.
Hold a poster contest to promote the fact that There’s ‘Snow’ Better Weather for Physical Activity!” Posters can show children engaged in vigorous wintertime activities such as skiing, snowball fights, ice skating, sledding and shoveling snow.
Create a cookbook that includes healthy recipes submitted by families.
Invite a local chef to teach a healthy cooking class for families.
Invite a community health expert to PTA meetings to answer questions about health behaviors, such as "How can I get my picky child to eat healthier food?"
Hold a healthy cooking competition for students and families. Add the winning recipe to next year’s school lunch or breakfast menu
Celebrate summer produce! Invite family members to participate in a special fruit- and vegetable- tasting luncheon with their children. Share information with families about the location and timing of nearby farmer’s markets.
Start a mobile breakfast cart to ensure all students have access to a healthy breakfast every day
Help start a school vegetable garden or host a farmer's market.
Focus on increasing the presence of nutrient-dense foods and drinks at school and PTA events and fundraisers.