The seventh-grader joined hundreds of his classmates for 25 minutes of exercise set to the beat of music. Apples and oranges were offered as snacks.
“We need to eat healthier so we don’t get fat,” he said.
Students across the Lammersville Unified School District practiced a healthy lifestyle habits by eating fruit and walking laps on Friday.
The district’s 2,423 students were joined by faculty and family as they walked from 1 to 1:25 p.m. at every school campus in the district to encourage an active lifestyle and healthful food choices.
Khushwinder Gill, Lammersville Unified School District assistant superintendent of elementary education, said the walk was part of the district’s effort to fight childhood obesity.
“Our goal is, along with academics, focus on fitness — working on the overall well-being of the student,” Gill said. “We started with making sure there is a salad bar in every school for lunch, and we brought in professional development for the kindergarten through eighth-grade teachers to help with physical fitness and nutrition.”
An expanding problem
The San Joaquin County 2011 Community Health Status Report shows local children are battling the waistline bulge.
The San Joaquin County Public Health Services report states that 33.4 percent of children in the fifth, seventh and ninth grades are overweight or obese, just above the state average of 31.2 percent.
A person is considered overweight with a body mass index of 25 to 29.9, and obese with a BMI of 30 and above.
According to WebMD, BMI is an estimate of body fat based on a person’s weight and height that helps gauge the effect of weight on health. The higher a person’s BMI, the greater the risk of some illnesses, including high blood pressure, coronary disease, stroke, some cancers and type 2 diabetes.
The county report also states that 22.8 percent of children ages 5 to 11 are overweight or obese, just below the state average of 24.1 percent.
The adult overweight and obesity rate for the county is listed at 65 percent.
The report cited physical inactivity and poor eating habits as contributing causes to the obesity rates.
Gill, a member of the district’s wellness committee, hopes future walks will spread awareness among parents and students about the importance of activity and nutrition.
She said the district is sponsoring a farmers market at all four Lammersville schools later in March to showcase nutritious food choices.
“We want to do more wellness walks, make it a community event, and send a message to the parents as well for healthy nutrition,” Gill said.
Fight for fitness
Nina Thanh, a registered dietician at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation, says unhealthful eating habits and a lack of physical activity have contributed to childhood overweight and obesity rates.
A shift away from fruits and vegetables to fast foods and sugary drinks is one culprit, she said. And the problem begins at home.
“It falls back on the parents — we have a choice on what we feed our kids,” Thanh said. “Parents can be a role model for their kids and eat healthier. Involve them in the meal planning and grocery shopping and try new vegetables and fruits.”
Thanh said one easy way to start eating more healthfully is to drink plain water instead of sweet sodas, juice and flavored water.
She also urged eating smaller portions and avoiding processed foods, opting instead for whole grains. She said families should do more physical activities together.
An active lifestyle was one of the reasons Bethany Elementary School Vice Principal Michael Bunch thought the walk was a good idea.
“My goal was to bring the whole school together — all the K-8 students — and give them the opportunity to have fun and be healthy,” Bunch said. “We encourage them through our DARE program to lead a more healthy life and to get outside and get active.”
Also walking laps at Bethany was Javier Ramirez, a seventh-grade student who said he tries to make good food choices.
“I have always been eating healthy. My parents make me eat an apple every day,” Ramirez said. “I play soccer and basketball every day at recess — I think it is good.”
Bunch said it’s not uncommon for Bethany School to be a hub of healthy activity. The school’s outdoor basketballs courts are filled after 4 p.m. when they are open for use by the community, he said.
He said his students play hard during recess and after school, which contributes to a fit and healthy lifestyle.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 835-3030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.