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Focusing School Wellness Beyond Physical Education

Shannon C. Mulhearn, Cees Whisonant, Pamela Hodges Kulinna, Shannon Ringenbach, and Pamela Powers

joperd cover September 2020

Whole school physical activity programs use various means to encourage students, staff, family, and even community members to engage in healthy behaviors. Although resources are often available through websites and professional memberships, barriers continue to be discussed as inhibitors to teachers resulting in programs being abandoned or avoided all together. In this regard, some find it helpful to hear from others and learn how they addressed challenges and found success integrating such programs. The purpose of this article is threefold: first, to provide an overview of conditions leading to the need for whole school programs; second, to highlight two specific programs and suggest ways teachers might use combined resources to provide rewards and incentives for their school community; and, third, to share tips learned from three discussions with teachers and administrators at schools that have initiated physical activity and wellness programs.

Setting the stage for the need for school-based physical activity programming is the state of children’s health in the United States. Although not alone in contributing to increased risk of several chronic diseases, overweight or obesity is a commonly used qualifier for such health concerns. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website offers a multitude of evidence supporting these concerns (CDC, 2020). Of particular interest is the direct connection between childhood overweight/obese classification and adult classification as the same (Simmonds, Llewellyn, Owen, & Woolacot, 2015). Therefore, solutions at the level of youth becomes a logical starting place to effect change and potentially avoid increased risk classifications altogether.

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