When it comes to leading healthier lives, we all know the importance of moving more. And this is DEFINITELY true when it comes to fighting childhood obesity in schools. In Oregon, our lawmakers thought it was so important that they have even upped the required number of minutes of physical activity for K-12 students: by 2017-18 students in grades K-5 will have to have at least 150 weekly minutes of physical education, and students in grades 6-8 will have to have at least 225 weekly PE minutes.
If you're like most of us, you are wondering how in the world you can find the time and means to add more physical activity without breaking your schedule or your budget. It sounds challenging, but there are realistic ways to tackle the job. Based on my experience as an elementary school principal, here are my top five tips for low-cost to no-cost ways to increase students' physical activity, without breaking your budget, your schedule, or your sanity.
1. Use the resources you already have. Talk to your staff to see if people already have the knowledge and skills to help. You might have teachers who are dancers, Zumba instructors, and yoga experts. You never know until you ask!
2. Build physical activity into daily routines so it doesn't take away from instruction. Look at using transitions, calendar time, math drills, etc. as times to build in physical activity.
3. Use low-cost materials that are already aligned to state and/or national physical education standards. Programs like Take Ten and SPARK have lots of suggestions for physical activity for teachers that are easy to use as activity breaks and as ways to integrate physical activity with instruction.
4. Be flexible. Not every grade needs to schedule their physical activity in the same way. Little ones might need several short PA breaks throughout the day. Older kids might need one longer period.
5. Be creative. Look for all of the "down times" that students have in between instructional periods (maybe they are sitting in the gym before school starts, or standing in lines waiting for transitions between classes in the hallway). You might be surprised to find opportunities to add physical activity throughout the day without touching instructional minutes at all.