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Helping Our Students Achieve Holistic Well-Being
When we practice behaviors which contribute to a healthy lifestyle, like exercising regularly and eating nutritious foods, we feel better. It isn’t rocket science – in fact, it’s pretty commonsensical.
From bringing a constructive mindset to a work meeting, to having more energy during family outings – being physically and mentally sound positively impacts multiple areas of our lives, and provides the foundation for achievement.
Unfortunately, too many of our students aren’t experiencing the benefits that come with being healthy in all aspects. Nearly one in three children in America is overweight or obese. The numbers are even higher in African American and Hispanic communities, where nearly 40 percent of children are overweight or obese. Low-income students are less likely to have recess and participate in organized sports, and are more likely to live in neighborhoods without physical activity resources like parks and bike paths – making them more vulnerable to be overweight or obese.
Blog Author Kevin Corrinet teaching CrossFit Kids
This is the result of multiple factors, including limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Kids living in low-income communities of color and rural areas are significantly less likely to live in a census tract with a supermarket, and more likely to rely on convenience stores and fast food restaurants. Such outlets don’t typically sell the variety of foods needed for a healthy diet – and if they do sell them, they often cost more than they would at grocery stores. This puts those who live in “food deserts” at a nutritional and financial disadvantage.
And that’s unacceptable, because studies show that healthy foods and physical activity help boost brain functionality and academic achievement. In 2001 the Fitnessgram test found fit students scored twice as well on academic tests as their unfit peers.
It doesn’t have to be this way – just as all kids deserve access to a high quality education, all kids deserve to be equipped with the knowledge, strategies, and resources to live healthy and active lives.
As teachers, we have the power to help our students make better choices for their health and life. One school that increased P.E. from one class a week to 45 minutes a day saw violent incidents decrease from 228 to 95 for the year. Another school in Naperville, IL launched a revolutionary new P.E. program resulting in Naperville students finishing first in the world in science in the Trends in International Math and Science Study test.
While I’ve always been active, I started making the link between physical fitness and holistic well-being while in the Army. The physical training I experienced at West Point and as an infantry officer was paramount to me becoming a more disciplined and focused leader. As my physical abilities sharpened, so did my mental faculties – I couldn’t have made it through Ranger School or my year leading soldiers in Iraq without being at the top of my game.
After the Army I decided to join another mission – to make sure all kids get a great education – and joined Teach For America as a Los Angeles ’07 corps member. I taught eighth grade algebra for six years before starting a CrossFit Kids program in my middle school this past year.
The CrossFit Kids methodology gets kids to think and make good choices about what they eat. The high-intensity workouts also teach students hard work, grit, teamwork, and how to be leaders in their other classes and outside of school. This past year, 70 percent of my students ‘Agreed’ or “Strongly Agreed’ that CrossFit P.E. motivated and inspired them to participate in more sports and physical activities outside of school. One of my students shared, “CrossFit changed my life because I now feel the need to work out in order to feel healthy. It made me feel better about myself and I feel happier… This experience was the best.”
My students are fortunate to have a physical outlet and access to resources which help them become more informed consumers. Not all schools have such programs, but there are still ways for teachers and students to talk about holistic wellbeing. Teachers can incorporate fitness, movement, and nutrition into their lesson and unit plans for any content areas – organizations like Learn to be Healthy and Kids.gov offer free resources to make this easy. And students can utilize “Home WOD’s,” which are cross-training Workouts of the Day that can be easily found on-line for free and that can be completed anywhere with little to no equipment needed. Let’s Move! also provides helpful tips and step-by-step strategies for families, schools and communities to help kids be more active, eat better, and grow up healthy..
As teachers, we want our kids to learn and grow into the best versions of themselves. Doing so involves keeping them engaged in the curriculum, welcoming them to office hours, and helping them stay on top of homework. But it should also involve guiding them toward a healthy lifestyle, which is the bedrock for all other success. When our kids are healthy, they achieve.
Kevin Corrinet (Los Angeles ’07) is an Army veteran who is now leading a CrossFit Kids program in his school.