Being one of the last kids chosen for a team and getting slammed with a dodgeball – some adults shudder at those grade school memories. Gym class, as it was once called, likely conjures up images of a drill sergeant barking “Drop and give me ten pushups!” But years ago, most schools had 45 minutes to an hour daily or at least three times a week of fitness activities for kids – and they were healthier.



The childhood obesity epidemic has been in the news a lot lately. The rates have quadrupled since the 1970's, causing a substantial rise in the rates of chronic and otherwise “adult” diseases like diabetes, stroke and hypertension in kids. Poor nutrition and too much screen time are culprits, but a major factor is lack of physical activity.


Research shows that active, unstructured play time (recess) is important because, in addition to the physical fitness benefits, adequate recess time is critical for a child’s social and emotional development. With the emphasis on science and math in recent years, recess time has grown shorter and shorter, if it exists at all, in some schools.

Physical activity breaks in the classroom are also important. In addition to the health benefits of being physically active, research shows the breaks during class improve attention and memory, benefiting kids academically.


If kids have active recess and physical activity breaks during class, do they really need P.E.?

Physical education is far different from just turning kids loose on the playground or in the classroom. It is teaching kids skills and how to use those skills to be healthy for life. And P.E. these days doesn’t emphasize things like dodgeball, but making fitness fun as well as instructional.

Over and over, research shows that when kids get more P.E. time they do better physically, mentally, and emotionally. A broad coalition of health experts recommends daily P.E. or a minimum number of minutes per week that is often 2 or 3 times more than what kids in our public schools are currently getting.

Many studies have shown the link between fitness and better math, science, and reading scores. Do you know how much P.E. time your child is getting in school? Check with your child’s school and advocate for more physical education.


What about getting kids involved in sports at a young age? A new study says kids who participate in physical education and sports experience several benefits like helping kids develop respect for their body and respect for others. Other studies show that sports involvement helps fight depression in kids. An important thing, say many studies, is to have the proper balance between sports, school and other activities without over-emphasizing any of them.


Smokeless tobacco, or “chew” used to be the province of men aged 65 and older. Now over 1,000 kids ages 12–17 are trying chew every day.

Among young users, high school athletes have the highest rate of usage. While sports are a good influence on most kids, use of chew by professional athletes is cited as an influence on kids' choice of giving it try. Using chew carries a high risk of oral cancer and increased rates of tooth decay.

Feb. 18–24 is “Through With the Chew “ Week. If you or your child needs help quitting, call the Nebraska QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.


Increasingly, smartphones are winding up in the hands of even the youngest kids. If you add up the amount of time young kids are spending on smartphones, computers, and television, it is a staggering 8 hours per day – hours that used to be spent in active play.

A recent study calls smartphones as addictive as cocaine – raising the dopamine levels in the brain to the point that signals addiction. Not only are kids inactive while they are on screens, but they are often seeing unhealthy food marketing that influences them.

Despite recent progress kids (ages 2 to 14) are still seeing 10 to 11 food-related TV ads per day, on average — most of which promote “unhealthy products including fast food, candy, sweet and salty snacks, and sugary drinks.” according to the latest study from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.


Motivating your kids to be more physically active sometimes takes a new approach.  You can find lots of fun and different ideas with the Get Up and Go video series at LNKTV Health’s website: LNKTVhealth.lincoln.ne.gov or YouTube channel, @LNKTVhealth.

 Health and the City is a monthly column that examines relevant community health issues, spotlights the local organizations whose work impacts the wellness of our community, and highlights fun, useful, and important health, nutrition, and active living opportunities.  Health and the City appears in Neighborhood Extra the fourth Saturday of every month and is brought to you by Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln (HealthyLincoln.org) and

LNKTV Health.  Send questions or comments to jpearsonanderson@

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