ERIC Identifier: ED347484
Publication Date: 1992-12-00
Author: Hinkle, J. Scott
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Personnel Services Ann Arbor MI.
School Children and Fitness: Aerobics for Life. ERIC Digest.
The various dimensions of wellness among school children are an important
aspect of professional counseling. Major studies in the 1980s have indicated
that American children are lacking in cardiovascular fitness, accounting for a
host of degenerative health difficulties and various psychological disorders.
However, research has also indicated that children participating in aerobic
exercises can avoid many health problems.
Only 41% of the children who even participate in physical education exert
themselves during exercise sufficiently enough to enhance cardiorespiratory
functioning. This lack of physical activity has resulted in American children
becoming more obese since the 1960s. It has been suggested that this increase in
body fat is responsible for reduced cardiovascular capacity which in turn limits
a child's ability to resist coronary heart disease. In addition, a lack of
physical activity accounts for a host of diseases including hypertension,
diabetes, impaired tolerance for heat, and various psychological disorders.
Exercise regimens that begin at a young age are more effective in promoting
longevity and health than those begun later in life. As children become older,
there is a strong tendency for them to participate less in physical activity.
The drop in such participation between the ages of twelve and eighteen is
dramatic. The purpose of this digest is to provide school counselors with
information regarding aerobic exercise (specifically running), and the
psychological, behavioral, and physical benefits children obtain by
participating in fitness programs. Collaboration between school counselors and
physical education teachers is also presented.
Some promising studies have shown that school children can enhance their
psychological as well as physical functioning after participating in fitness
programs that include aerobic running. All of the aerobic exercises have the
potential to assist in promoting physical and psychological health, however,
children and adolescents will find running activities to be the most accessible
aerobic exercise in terms of skills development, costs, and availability.
Children who have experienced
aerobic improvements have realized various degrees of self-esteem enhancement.
Hyperactive, learning disabled, and behaviorally handicapped children have been
found to internally control behaviors that were previously externally controlled
following participation in running programs. Running has even been found to be
equivalent to low dosages of stimulants in treating hyperkinetic behavior among
children. Relatedly, psychotropic medications have been reduced in emotionally
handicapped children who run regularly. A downward trend has been reported in
the depressive mood scores of hyperactive children following a 10-week running
program. Children with developmental problems also have increased completion of
written tasks and reduced their degree of talking out in class as a result of
participating in running programs. In addition, improvements in academic
learning and creative thinking have been associated with running exercise.
Children should be taught aerobic
exercises at school that are prevention and protection oriented. Participating
in school running programs can influence the major systems of their bodies,
reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, improve tolerance for stress, and
promote wellness. Moreover, children who become physically fit are more likely
to exert control over health risks and avoid behavior that is counterproductive
to good health.
In addition, children considered for adjunctive running programs in the
schools should obtain a physical examination prior to participation. This should
assist in ruling-out any medical contraindications such as childhood rheumatic
fever and asthma. Children prone to physical injury, foot abnormalities, and/or
joint difficulties should be thoroughly assessed before consideration for a
IMPLICATIONS FOR SCHOOL COUNSELORS
counselors, collaborating with physical education teachers, should utilize
psychophysiological interventions whenever appropriate. Aerobic running programs
need to be thoughtfully designed in collaboration with physical education
teachers. This will ensure that running programs are individualized to meet the
needs of the child's presenting issues. The flexibility of the program is an
important consideration due to children having varying initial levels of
fitness. Once the physical education component is considered, school counselors
and physical education teachers can plan running activities for children with
particular problems. For example, a child with behavioral and/or emotional
problems may be assigned to supervised running the first 20 minutes of the
school day followed by a brief contact with the school counselor. Similarly, a
self-contained classroom with hyperkinetic children could engage in a group
running activity and subsequent group discussion focused on running
accomplishments. Thus, a self-esteem enhancement as well as a calming effect
Hinkle and Tuckman's (1987) article on managing children's running programs
is helpful for school counselors. These authors' systematic running programs
within the schools have improved fitness levels in elementary and middle school
students. They offer a simple method to measure aerobic capacity and discuss the
management of structured running programs for school children. In addition,
group running formats, medical issues, and behavior reinforcement are presented.
Physical activity engaged in as a child can
encourage fitness throughout the lifespan. Moreover, psychological dynamics
associated with seeking and maintaining health, especially in the schools, are
of utmost importance. The health of children can be more effectively maintained
when school counselors and physical education teachers collaborate to truly
serve the whole child. Such collaboration can be an effective and efficient
setting in which school counselors and physical education teachers can provide a
preventive measure that reduces health risk factors in children.
Educational programs within the schools should make accessible to all
children the opportunity to exercise at a level that is conducive to life-long
health. Many adults have not learned as children the value and benefits of
exercise, especially those of an aerobic nature. School counselors and physical
education teachers can have an impact on curriculum reforms by collaboratively
investing in multi-intervention programs that encompass the psychophysiological
spectrum of children within the schools.
In conclusion, running is inexpensive, can be
performed indoors or outdoors, is natural to all children, minimal in costs,
cuts across cultural differences, and can be continued throughout the lifespan.
Together, school counselors and physical educators can play an active role in
the development of lifelong fitness for children by encouraging, supporting,
developing, and implementing creative aerobic running programs in the schools.
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