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Physical educators teach students about the benefits of staying fit; they also help their students incorporate physical activity into their daily regimen. In addition to teaching students about healthy eating and lifestyles, physical educators teach activities like dance, formal sports and recreational games. In 2010 First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign to help combat the growing national epidemic of childhood obesity. Physical education teachers can play a pivotal role in this effort.
According to Let’s Move, physical activity is an important component of the fight against obesity. In the United States the rate of childhood obesity has tripled; nearly 1 in 3 children are obese. In addition, one third of all children born in 2000 or later will become victims of diabetes. Other problems related to childhood obesity include heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and cancer. Children that lead sedentary lifestyles have a much greater chance of developing weight-related health problems. The Let’s Move campaign suggests that a lack of physical activity coupled with excessive snacking between meals, eating large food portions and drinking soda or other sweetened beverages has a significant impact on children’s health. Other factors leading to childhood obesity include long hours of television watching and the use of computers or video games rather than engaging in physical activity. Physical education instructors can make significant contributions towards the Let’s Move campaign by creating a variety of opportunities to combat childhood obesity and including extensive physical education programs into their curriculum.
As advocates for healthy lifestyles, physical education instructors teach their students about healthy lifestyles by incorporating programs on diet, nutrition and health into classroom activities. Teaching students about chronic disease and how it can be prevented through diet, nutrition and physical activity helps students make healthy choices. Most physical educators include classes on health and wellness and impart information about healthy snack choices to their students.
As mentors, physical education teachers motivate and instill positive values in their students by teaching them about the benefits of being physically active. Motivating youngsters to develop an interest in their health and physical well-being builds their self esteem and the desire to become successful in most areas of their lives. Physical education teachers can be effective in their roles by using strategies like reward systems to encourage unmotivated students.
Selam Nuri has been writing academic articles and working across the curriculum since 2001. She has been published online at various websites and earned her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology in 2006 from the City University of New York.