According to the University of Texas Health Science Center, Texas has the 10th-highest youth obesity rate in the United States with approximately 20% of children ages 10-17 qualifying as obese. Youth with obesity have increased risk for a myriad of health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and depression.
House Creek Elementary teachers Michael Sheon and Michael Bryan are working to lower those statistics by developing healthy lifestyles in their students through vigorous physical activity on a daily basis that causes increased heart rate, breathing rate and perspiration.
“The older students are required (by the Texas Education Agency) to participate in the state physical assessment known as FitnessGram,” Sheon said. “Coach Bryan and I wanted a similar assessment for the younger grade levels. That resulted in a very similar component that we nicknamed ‘MinionGram.’”
Kindergarten, first, and second grade students participated in the yearly assessment designed to evaluate their levels of physical condition. These particular students were able to complete 100 or more laps on the 20-meter Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run test.
The beep test, also known as the PACER test, is a running test used to estimate an athlete’s aerobic capacity. In the test, students must run from one line to another before a timed beep.
Sheon said that the students learning to stay with the beeps and staying in a straight line were the biggest challenges for the youngsters.
“People joke about keeping ducks in a row. Try teaching kindergarten students how to wait for a beep,” Sheon said, laughing.
Bryan said while every student is not a natural born athlete, every student can exercise to his or her ability level.
“The greatest opportunity lies in conveying that it’s OK to try to push yourself a bit further and to accept the outcomes,” Bryan said. “We celebrate the largest and smallest successes the kids have.”
Second grader Benjamin Marcelle also ran more than 100 laps and plans to continue to increase his number of laps in the allotted time during the beep test.
“I ran a lot,” Marcelle said. “I like the PACER because running is good.”
According to the University of Texas, childhood obesity results in extra health care costs. A child with obesity has $12,900 more in medical costs than a child with normal weight. Obesity in childhood is associated with poorer educational outcomes including lower grade point averages, lower reading and math scores and more school absences.