Op-Ed: Shape up America

December 10, 2012 Comments Off on Op-Ed: Shape up America
Op-Ed: Shape up America
by Paul Williams

Shape-up America

            One out of every three children in America is overweight, according to multiple studies. We cannot allow our children to accept being overweight and unhealthy. We also cannot hope our children will take the initiative because most won’t. According to a study done by CNN, seven out of ten Americans do not exercise daily. This shocking statistic shows that Americans are becoming extremely lazy. In schools, we educate our students about the past, present, and future. There won’t be much of a future if we don’t instill positive exercise habits in our children now. It is time for schools to offer mandatory gym class everyday because exercise benefits the body, heart, muscles, joints, and mind.

According to a New York Times article, “Dieting vs. Exercise for Weight Loss,” healthy eating is much more important than exercising. There is an obvious balance between the two, so can we really say one is more important than the other? Healthy eating is very important, but it is difficult for schools to control what their students eat. Schools can stop offering unhealthy food choices, but then students would be inclined to bring their lunch or eat more junk food at home. It is nearly impossible to control everything people eat, but we can increase the amount of physical activity they receive in a day. If we make gym mandatory and the teachers monitor their students’ physical activity, we will force students to put effort into exercising.

I have lost fifteen pounds in the past year and a half. I exercise daily and unfortunately, none of this exercise occurred at school. At school, we are given gym class on average once every six days. This gym class consists of most students reading a book, doing homework, or sitting under a basketball hoop and receiving an A+. On days without gym, we have an elective period, which for many students is a study period.  Some students may say, “Why should I care I’m already fit?” Well, some students are in good shape and are motivated to exercise. Unfortunately, most students do not fall into this category. This statistic can be changed by taking action, not asking students to take the initiative. We must make all students exercise during school hours without any exceptions.

A star basketball player may say, “I have a game tonight so I don’t want to tire myself out.” Nothing says this student has to do a five mile jog; he can walk the track like any other student. This would serve as a positive warm-up for the game. If we were to make an exception for this student, do we make an exception for a student who has a golf match? Do we make an exception for a student who sits on the bench for the baseball team like me? At Medford High School, we have a fitness center that should be used more during gym class. In my opinion, an example of a positive workout routine would be a half hour on an exercise bike or elliptical machine. Even a game of basketball amongst a group of friends would be acceptable. The tools are present for the students to use, but the time is not allotted by the schools. At elementary schools in Medford, we have brand new gymnasiums along with brand new equipment that should be put to good use.

Here are some of the benefits of being overweight. Actually, there aren’t any benefits to being overweight. We need to take the necessary steps stated to prevent obesity where it begins, with our youth. Everyone realizes that death and disease are serious issues so we should attack one of the root causes, inactivity. According to childrensdefense.org, the average medical costs for an overweight child are three times higher than the average child. The main reason for this is these children are at a higher risk for preventable diseases like diabetes, asthma, high blood pressure.

Education is essential to success in life, but without physical activity you won’t get far in life, mainly because you won’t have a long life. I urge all of you to get out and exercise more. Encourage your family and friends to exercise as well. Although we cannot force the government to make gym class mandatory everyday, by demonstrating its positive benefits we will leave them without a choice. Although exercise cannot eliminate childhood obesity, mandatory gym class will certainly help fight the problem.


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