Opinion Schools Sports

The Good Life With Chris: Why the Modern School Day Stinks

Sedentary habits developed both in school and at home, unhealthy breakfasts-on-the-go, early school lunches, and a lack of healthy role models are setting our children up for physical and psychological health problems.

Est. Read Time: 5 mins

Note: This column was originally published on Chris Fluck’s website, C. Fluck Training. For a limited time, Chris is exclusively offering Saucon Source readers a FREE two-week trial of his personal training sessions. To learn more and complete the registration form for your free trial, please click here.

In the state of Pennsylvania alone, 1 in 4 children are overweight or obese. There are a variety of factors that play a role in this but I am going to focus on one: the modern school day. From a young age, the kids are required to sit around in a classroom all day and do their work. Sitting becomes the norm for them. A good chunk of their time is spent on their butts. This is a health hazard. As you sit, your leg muscles are turned off. This not only causes a problem with the musculature but it also effects your lymphatics. The lymphatics are driven by muscular contraction. When you eliminate that by sitting idle, you begin a cycle of events that will be detrimental to your health. Combine that with other factors like the tightening of muscles around the anterior hip, hamstring problems and other issues surrounding the pelvic floor, and this will wreak havoc on your posture. The only opportunity these kids get to move around is between classes and during the lunch period. I wonder how their diets are…

The diets match their activity levels: unhealthy. When you look into what kids are eating, it is no wonder the overweight and obesity numbers are high. This pertains to the active kids as well. I work with kids who work extremely hard in the weight room and in their given sport. When you ask them how they are eating, you often hear something like this…

The kid wakes up late at 6:45. They have about 20 minutes to get ready for school and grab a quick bite before the bus comes. After deciding between frozen waffles, cocoa puffs and pop tarts, the kid makes a decision. He grabs some pop tarts and rushes out the door. Talk about a spike in blood sugar. “Breakfast” was eaten at 7:05. Now, the kid doesn’t eat again until lunch. The lunch period for him begins at 11. And guess what is on the menu today? IT IS PIZZA HUT DAY! This calls for a double, maybe even a triple order, of that nutritious (yeah right) lunch. It is now around 11:30 and they are done with their lunch. They finish up the school day, then head off to practice. Practice starts at 3:15 so they decide to not eat anything after school. They don’t want to feel crappy at practice. Practice was a tough one today and doesn’t end until 5:30. By the time they get home and shower up, it is already after 6. This kid hasn’t eaten anything since 11:30. That is seven whole hours without food consumption. For an active kid, this is way too long. Combine that with the fact that they have eaten nothing with any nutritional value all day! Let’s hope the dinner is a healthy one. After doing a little homework, the kid goes to bed and the process repeats itself all over again the next day.

Where are the kids supposed to learn about healthy lifestyle choices? The obvious answer would be at home. But when they spend a majority of their waking hours in a place that is designed to educate, shouldn’t the school be set up a little differently? Are Health and Physical Education programs doing the job they were designed to do? Looking at the overweight and obesity statistics, they are not. The kids may not know how to live a healthy lifestyle, but they can play a mean game of kickball or badminton. It is not only the teachers, but also the coaches. Most male high school students want to “bulk up” so they consume a wide variety of crap that is designed to pack on muscle. We are all failing to inform children on the role diet plays. This is crucial, because overweight kids will generally become overweight adults. It is why it is so important to never let it happen in the first place.

Below I have listed some of the potential health outcomes for a child who is overweight or obese. Some of these issues can damage a person for their entire life.

Potential Negative Psychological Outcomes:

  • Depressive Symptoms
  • Poor Body Image
  • Low Self-Esteem
  • Risk for Developing Eating Disorders
  • Behavior and Learning Problems

Negative Health Consequences:

  • Insulin Resistance
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Hypertension
  • High Total and LDL Cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood
  • Low HDL Cholesterol levels in the blood
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Early Puberty
  • Orthopedic problems such as Blount’s disease and slipped capital femoral epiphysis
  • Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (fatty infiltration and inflammation of the liver)

I wouldn’t wish any of these on my worst enemy! And to think, this is what we are allowing to happen to the youth of America.

Possible Solutions:

  1. Be a positive role model! It is not what you say; it is your actions that get noticed by children. You don’t have to look like you came out of a fitness magazine, but take care of your health. The children around you will see that and follow you. Be a positive role model, not a negative one.
  2. Educate children on healthy living. This might involve setting down the electronic device during dinner and enjoying a good meal. It might involve getting rid of all that bread in exchange for some veggies. It might mean getting outside and enjoying some sunlight or heading to the park to play some pickup basketball. Eating healthy and challenging yourself physically can be fun.
  3. Get off your butts! Getting students up and out of their seats during the school day would work wonders for their musculature that usually lays dormant throughout the day. You know the old saying, “if you don’t use it, you lose it?” This is what happens when muscles and neural pathways aren’t used. They go away! It is NOT OK to sit in a classroom for 7+ hours and then come home and sit for an additional 5-8 hours. That is over half of your waking hours spent on your backside!

This is a bit of an uphill battle as a lot of damage has been done. But like every other great change, it begins with one person. As the Tolstoy quote goes, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” If you are a parent, setting a positive example for your children can change their lives for the better. If you are a coach, lead by example and don’t demand things “because I said so.” Show them the importance of physical fitness by your actions. If you are a teacher, you are with students for the most hours during the school day. Get your classes up and moving more regularly throughout the day. If you are an administrator, make an effort to have healthier lunches available to children. Offer support to those who may need some additional guidance. And lastly, live your life in a healthy manner so these kids can see that, and realize it’s not a bad way to live!

Chris FluckChris Fluck is a 2004 graduate of Saucon Valley High School and former high school football and wrestling coach. Currently, Chris is the owner of C. Fluck Training. He is a Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and member of the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA).


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About the author

Josh Popichak

Josh Popichak is the owner, publisher and editor of Saucon Source. A Lehigh Valley native, he's covered local news since 2005 and previously worked for Berks-Mont News and AOL/Patch. Contact him at josh@sauconsource.com.

1 Comment

  • VERY good article! Good health habits need to be developed in childhood.

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