Obesity is a condition where excess body fat accumulates when the energy intake from food and drink is greater than the energy expended through physical activity (Australian Institute of Health & Wellbeing, 2004).Obesity is now seen as a rising epidemic worldwide and it is not restricted just to adults. According to the Australian Medical Association (2009), almost a quarter of Australian children are overweight with one in four of these being classified as obese. This is a major concern not only because of health and social problems short term, but also for the long term health issues that follow into adulthood. These include cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes and asthma. Television, computers, internet, the fast food industry, poor awareness of healthy eating habits and reduced amounts of physical activity have all been identified as cause of obesity (Australian Sports Commission 2003). This essay considers why physical activity is so important for children in the Middle Childhood (6-10 years), what roles teachers play in addressing and preventing obesity and the strategies they use to achieve this.
Physical activity is defined as “bodily movements produced by skeletal muscles that results in energy expenditure” (Pate, Pratt et al., 1995 as cited in Summerfiels, 2000). Physical activity is vitally important for the healthy growth and development of middle childhood body systems, bones and muscles and allows them to maintain a healthy weight and sustain it into adulthood. Physical activity is crucial to the development of physical, social, cognitive and emotional well-being of children. Many middle childhood children begin to emerge on their physical capabilities. Their gross motor skills become more productive at this age. This allows them to be more coordinated and have an increased ability to run, skip, jump and bounce balls. Fine motor skills are also improving with maturation due to cognitive advance (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010).
Physical activity is also linked to psychological and social benefits. It allows children to improve self-esteems, build confidence, control anxiety, sleep better and improved social skills among peers (Better Health Channel, 2000).It is recommended children need at least sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day and no more than two hours a day using electronic media for entertainment (Department of Health & Ageing, 2004).
Middle childhood children are at a stage of development where they will literally absorb everything you teach them. This is the stage where children learn to make their own decisions and control their own behaviour (McDevitt & Ormrod, 2010). At this stage there is a significant opportunity to develop healthy eating patterns, educate on exercise and prevent obesity (Better Health Channel, 2000). This is seen as a benefit and a form of prevention rather than cure later in life. This will impact their lifestyle choices as they continue...