Study: More Gym + Nutrition Ed Doesn’t Slim Kids Down (And I Think I Know Why)

Cool entry on the “Alas, tsntnyheik
A Blog” blog
   questioning the conventional wisdom that holds: If only kids had more gym, health and nutrition classes, they’d all slim down. An eight-year study of about 1700 kids gave half of them a greatly enhanced gym/nutrition/health curriculum (and healthier cafeteria food), while the other half got the same old same old.  Kids were measured in third grade and again in fifth and surprise (there goes the grant!), there was no difference in the two groups as far as weight was concerned.

The “Alas” blogger rightly asks whether weight should matter anyway: If the group with the gym curriculum was more active, happy or fit, that certainly seems more important than whether they could squeeze into smaller undies. But MY point is that I’m not surprised by the outcome, because it’s not just gym that makes a difference in kids’ lives. It’s what kids do OUTSIDE of school, too.


When principals forbid them to ride their bikes to school (and I’ll post a another Outrage about that soon),  when  parents are afraid to let them go to the park, when their friends are not allowed to venture out the front door, what can kids do before or after school except hang out inside?

And what generally happens there? They’re not jogging in place while poking around YouTube. And if they’re watching TV, cue the dancing Pop-Tarts! Even organized sports programs don’t offer the insurance of exercise (or fun). When my kids were playing on our local Y’s baseball team, they stood around for about 60 of the 90 minutes, waiting in the outfield for a ball that never came, or waiting for their turn at bat that felt like it would never come, or eating the snack that always DID come, because we parents were required to schlep it. (Why was snack a requirement, anyway?)

In short: We can program as much health as we want into the curriculum, and as the sister of a former high school health-ed teacher, I say: Yay! Let’s do it! I’m all for health class. BUT until we start letting kids get out there and organize their own games of tag, and kick ball and roll down the steep, rocky hill (okay, maybe not that one — Free-Range has its limits), they’re going to be inside. Who’s dancing and prancing and getting all that healthy exercise in  there?

Looks like the Pop-Tarts.  — Lenore, who thanks Kelly Hogaboom for sending this story in.  Kelly’s blog is right here!

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40 Responses to Study: More Gym + Nutrition Ed Doesn’t Slim Kids Down (And I Think I Know Why)

  1. LindaLou August 3, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    This is such a pet peeve of mine. Thanks for hitting on it. I know so many people who complain about how their kids are overweight and claim they don’t know why. ::eye roll:: My kids do year round swim team, karate, and dance AND spend their daylight hours outside riding their bikes and playing.

  2. Clover August 3, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    I’m a firm believer in exercise for the sake of fitness. However, as you point out, the organized fitness in kids’ lives isn’t as important as letting them go outside and have fun! Fitness sneaks in when you’re climbing trees.

    On another note, I heartily agree that “obesity” in and of itself is not a problem for the majority of kids. I had chubby, active brothers, and they were far healthier than skinny kids that sat inside all day! Thanks for posting this link and discussion.

  3. bushidoka August 3, 2009 at 8:16 am #

    Yeah, the local “snack requirement” for kids’ soccer here in Ottawa was always perplexing to me. I’m glad we dropped it in favour of free-time

  4. bushidoka August 3, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    “fitness sneaks in when you’re climbing trees” – now THERE is a quotable quote!!!

  5. archdiva August 3, 2009 at 8:20 am #

    This is true for adults as well. I wish the rampant anti-obesity campaigns would be based in actual science. A great blog to read for more on that is:

    To lighten the mood a smidgen, here is a great satire The Onion did of school lunch programs:

  6. Angie August 3, 2009 at 9:06 am #

    PE does zip for health and fitness, and the older you get the less it does. At least in sixth grade we spent most PE periods playing class-vs-class (the two sixth grade classes) soccer, so there was an opportunity for spending the hour running around for the kids who were into it. With 30+ kids on a side, though, most of us just wandered around and talked all period and never got anywhere near the ball.

    Once you get to junior high and high school, PE classes are overwhelmingly oriented toward competitive team sports, because the classes feed the teams and the teams feed college teams which feed pro teams. Which is great for the one in ten thousand (or whatever ridiculously high number) kids who actually make it all the way, who even want to, but for everyone else it’s pointless. Playing baseball doesn’t make you fit. Playing six- or nine-person volleyball doesn’t make you fit. Playing football doesn’t make you fit. Basketball is actually one of the better of the popular team sports for fitness, but that’s only a six-week unit out of the school year.

    Check out the people you know who have office jobs but play in the company softball team. How many of them are pudgy and wheezy? Quite a few in my experience, and the ones who weren’t were the ones who worked out outside of softball practices and games. If just playing the game made you fit then pro players wouldn’t run or bicycle or lift weights, but they all do.

    PE Classes do very little to encourage fitness, whether right then and there or lifelong. Heck, we actually had a “fitness” unit when I was in high school. The teacher talked about cardiovascular fitness and your target heartrate and about warming up and cooling down and cetera. Then as soon as the unit was over it was all out the window. If the same teacher said to go for a cross-country run (around the campus perimeter, over a couple of low hills), they meant run and if you walked it they yelled belittling remarks and often made you take another lap. Through junior high and high school I saw a lot of PE teachers bellowing at kids to “Go! Go! Keep running! Faster, faster! If you stop and walk you take another lap!!!” but I never once saw a teacher go up and take a kid’s pulse to see if maybe they already were doing the best they could, or the best they should.

    PE is warehousing, even moreso than academic classes. The teachers don’t give a damn about anyone but the star athletes. Amazing how it changes when you get to college, where the students are free to drop the class if they don’t like it. [wry smile] I had great PE teachers in college. Our actual kids, though, are trapped with a bunch of frustrated athletes who assume every student who’s not a star athlete is a lazy, whining liar. Wow, that’s going to get kids enthusiastic about lifelong fitness! :/


  7. Jessie August 3, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    I would also like to point out that phys ed classes can lead to an intense hatred of exercise and organized sports, if taught the wrong way.. Trust me. Sometimes all PE does is embarrass and shame the not-so-fit and not-so-coordinated kids.

  8. Nicola August 3, 2009 at 9:18 am #

    I’ve always said it… it starts at home! It drives me nuts how schools try to educate the kids on healthy eating, send them home with a flyer about eating apples (and have little clip-art fruits and veggies to decorate the borders), and the parents proceed to say “that’s nice honey,” and load the grocery cart with soda, chips, twinkies, and processed meats.

    Just go into the grocery store and start taking a look at what other people have. I find that 9 times out of 10, when you see an overweight adult with overweight kids, you see a cart full of stuff to keep them that way.

    Start them off active and eating right, they’ll keep doing it. That’s simple human nature!!!

  9. Holly August 3, 2009 at 9:46 am #

    When I was a kid, gym was just torture. Any joy to be found in physical activity, I didn’t find it there! Mostly I remember that awful Presidential Fitness Exam! Ugh!

  10. MaeMae August 3, 2009 at 10:00 am #

    My kids were soooo bored with baseball/softball. Lenore, you’re completely right. They spent most of their time standing around. The only sport I’ve found where they are moving the whole time and get sweaty every practice is ice hockey. They skate hard up to 5 hours a week. Plus they play for 6 months out of the year. Most of their coaches play on adult leagues so the kids get to see them play which (hopefully) is showing the kids that this sport can be a life-long way to have fun and stay fit.

  11. Jen August 3, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    I second that – I felt like such a failure when we had the Presidential Fitness test in school. They didn’t prepare us for it, and I got a bad grade for not being able to do the “flexed-arm hang” or X-number of sit-ups within a minute. Meanwhile, I was one of the star players and one of the fastest on my rec soccer team, and loved every minute of that.

  12. LauraL August 3, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    Jen, I hear you! I tried SO hard to pass the 50 yd dash in the 8 seconds or whatever it was it had to be run in, that I’d practice, even, and still, no dice. I felt like such a failure.

  13. LauraL August 3, 2009 at 10:13 am #

    (I hate that we can’t track comments without first commenting!)

  14. Tracey R August 3, 2009 at 10:52 am #

    Great post! Angie, exactly right, all of it, and Jen, too: I was the best female athlete in my high school and could even outrun a lot of the guys, but I almost failed the Presidential Fitness test because I wasn’t doing my situps right–I’d never been taught the right way to do them so they were going to say I did *zero* in one minute instead of 60.

    We homeschool, so my kids aren’t trapped in seats all day. They have ADHD, so when it just gets to be too much I can tell them to go have a run around the block or climb a tree and then come back. And they get to go to the park a whole lot more than most kids. They all do ballet at an internationally-respected pre-professional ballet school that works the tar out of the kids, quite literally, for anywhere from an hour a night (pre-ballet) to up to 5-6 hours a night (about to graduate). My daughter, who was not fat when she started, nevertheless went down a pants size while growing 2 inches her first semester there. My son didn’t, although he was putting more time in. Different metabolisms. Sometimes that’s a factor, too. A kid who was doing pushups, crunches, jumping, and controlled movement exercises around 16 hours a week, plus playing a couple of hours daily, and to still have a slight amount of pudge, who’s eating a good diet–that’s metabolism. I wonder how big he’d be if he *didn’t* have all that activity.

  15. Kelly August 3, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    “On another note, I heartily agree that ‘obesity’ in and of itself is not a problem for the majority of kids. I had chubby, active brothers, and they were far healthier than skinny kids that sat inside all day! Thanks for posting this link and discussion.”

    Clover, I agree. It is also telling there are so many studies vis-a-vis “obesity” but they often do not assess health. This sort of thing – not to mention so much anecdotal experience of skinny unhealthy people and fat healthy people – is one of the reasons I am fairly skeptical of those who correlate obesity and health (the BMI Project is pretty cool to look at along these lines).

    My kids are incredibly active and free-range (by homeschooling they actually get far more exercise than going to school). And yeah, they’re slim. But should they grow up chubby (like I am) I know at least they’ll likely be ACTIVE, having learned the habit and the joys therein.

    Our bodies were made to move and activity helps keep us in health. But I am not a health nut: activity also gives us more OPTIONS. My family just moved across town (yesterday) and guess how many times my kids said they were “bored”, or asked to watch TV? Zero – we don’t own a television. They spent the move helping us (only a little bit), playing the garden, and murdering our cardboard boxes into a myriad number of creations.

    I would love to see more physical activity in schools – it’s one of the reasons I took my kids out of public school. However I agree with what’s been said, I think these habits or lack thereof are mostly learned at home.

    Thanks for posting this, Lenore!

  16. knutty knitter August 3, 2009 at 10:59 am #

    My report card always had a row of As and one D. I tried so hard to make that go away but I never could. I was fit too but totally hopeless at the stuff I was supposed to do.

    Play outside – lots. Solves the whole problem really when it comes to fitness.

    viv in nz

  17. Stacy August 3, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Add me in for the Presidential Fitness program displeasure. I couldn’t stand it. I could pass sit-ups with flying colors but the bent arm hang or running requirements – no way in heck, even when I was in high school and working 2.5 hrs a day as a member of the gymnastics team. “Preparation” was a mile run once a week, if that. How does that prep me for a bent arm hang, exactly? Ug.

    Then, in high school, there was no standardized testing for fitness requirements. As long as I was part of a competitive team, it was all based on the coaches giving us grades based on participation and achievement. While I only ever competed JV, I was in the gym longer than everyone else every day (even the student-issued team awards at the end of the year labeled me most dedicated three years running). I was certainly focused on getting new tricks and routines, so fitness kind of snuck up on me like I was climbing a tree. But at least I didn’t have the demoralizing standard of “run a mile” when I did so much better biking 10 miles with my siblings or spending 2 hours doing gymnastics.

  18. kherbert August 3, 2009 at 11:06 am #

    I’m thinking about my “Kids” – all 700 of them. What are other school’s policies abut kids playing on the playground outside of hours.

    The school next to my sister actually encourages it. My campus is of 2 minds. We want our kids to have a save place to play. There are studies that say encouraging community use during off hours decreased vandalism. We haven’t had our new basketball hoops stolen. We did have the building broken into 2 years ago and this summer.

    We have a problem with dangerous litter being left on the playground also.

  19. somekindofmuffin August 3, 2009 at 12:11 pm #

    I wonder how their grades were effected though. Physical activity at school is important for helping kids get some of their energy out and be able to focus when they get back in class. This was true for me even in college. % hour classes killed me. I learned little in those.

  20. dillon August 3, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    The dirty secret of child rearing is that are schools can’t do it. this especially includes instilling a healthy lifestyle in our children. I suppose some physical activity during school is better than none all day but its too irresponsible to expect our schools to provide the solution (healthy kids). Heck most schools barely get the educating part right, but I digress. Letting your kids run outside will go a long way to alleviating their “ADHD” and other such ailments.
    p.s yes I know ADHD etc is legit, but i’m of the opinion that in many cases the kid just needs to play more.

  21. house of sky August 3, 2009 at 6:59 pm #

    re: Pres Phys Fitness…between that, and moving to the Los Angles of the late ’70’s w/ smog alerts regularly discouraging outside activities (for a nature girl-very depressing), I was pretty depressed for a long time. I am pretty heat sensitive, so never liked tennis, I would nearly pass out. Noone helped me figure out why (drink more water!). The only saving grace was that my town did not have school buses, so we all rode our bikes to school, every day.

    Bottom line, though, was that I felt like I was not “athletic”, had no skills in that area. Only in hindsight, can I give myself permission to be physical…but I am finding that pleasure of activity in serious gardening and dancing. Just as we identify multiple intelligences as a tool in teaching, perhaps we should aim more towards that idea with “activity”…that we all have different “activities” we are drawn to, let’s find yours!

  22. Christopher Byrne August 3, 2009 at 8:37 pm #

    According to various research studies, some of which I look a little askance at because of obscure methodology, the average child in the U.S. today consumes as many as 4 sweetened sodas a day.

    Judging by my local 7-11 around 3:30, when I take my afternoon caffeine jolt, the number of 48-ounce sodas sold is tremendous.

    This potentially adds about 800 calories to a diet on a daily basis, to say nothing of the impact of high fructose corn syrup. It takes an hour of strenuous exercise (heart rate at more than 60% of max) to bun 800 calories. There’s no way a PE class can compensate for that.

    Soda for us as kids was comparatively expensive–and considered an occasional treat by my parents. It was given instead of a snack, and a 12-ounce can of Acme Black Cherry soda was divided equally among 4 boys. (Who watched like hawks to make sure the division was equitable.) Milk, Water and juice, if we were lucky Hawiian Punch, were around at other times.

    And as a recent business trip to Disneyworld confirmed–one fat kid is generally accompanied by two fat parents. I would highly recommend David Kessler’s book–“The End of Overeating.”

    Without changing our relationship to food, even the most active kids are going to have a challenge keeping weight off.

    And, yes, get out and play too, but no matter what level of activity, the basic formula–calories in vs. calories out–needs to be in proper balance of health and weight control.

  23. stan August 3, 2009 at 9:16 pm #

    And today’s headline? 70 percent of kids are vitamin D-deficient. Folks, a reasonable amount of sunlight is not going to kill you – it’s essential!

  24. justanotherjen August 3, 2009 at 10:24 pm #

    Totally agree and I’m so tired of our society being so obsessed with weight.
    My kids get 1 to 2 days of gym a week (depending on the grade…they gym teacher only comes on 2 days and each year different grades get the 2 days and some only get 1 day). It’s great and all but it’s not as important as all the time my kids spend outside. I know they start putting on weight in the winter because they don’t spend much time outside. It’s just too cold here and gets dark within hours of getting home from school. But in the summer they are outside from morning till dark. They each lose about 5lbs in the summer.
    As a 250lb woman (yeah, I know I should take my own advice or follow my kids’ example, lol) I often wonder what people think when they see me with my skinny kids.
    And I agree that forced PE does nothing for health. I was never good at sports and have health issues that make it hard to do high impact aerobic exercise (ie play sports) so I was always slowest in class and I just hated it. All gym did was reinforce how much I hated sports and physical activity and by 5th grade I avoided it at all costs. I remember we did like 5 weeks of wiffle ball at the end of the school year and I never played a single minute until the last day of school when the teacher asked if anyone hadn’t batted yet and my friends forced me to the front of the line. Until then I had sat on the bench…for 5 weeks.
    I definitely got more exercise playing army at the railroad tracks, climbing trees at the park and playing tag in our front yard (even if I had to have a special “rest” spot down the street because I couldn’t run far…at least I was running).
    And, amazingly, despite my overeating problem and my love of junk food my kids have learned to eat healthy. They are constantly reminding me that what I’m eating is not healthy and they request fresh fruit over candy and cookies for snacks. My 6yo just told me yesterday she wished we had some carrots for a snack, lol. And they ate all the freaking fruit in just a few days.

  25. Dave August 3, 2009 at 10:35 pm #

    According to a report on Fox News this morning it turns out that gym class is not safe for kids anyway. Let’s just cover them in bubble wrap and place them in front of the TV and make sure the door is locked. Safety first.

  26. MFA Grad August 3, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    I actually enjoyed PE up until high school, but that had a lot to do with the way the classes were structured (I attended the same school from kindergarten up to 8th grade). Up until high school, I had PE every day and I have to say, they made sure to keep us active. We ran every day at the start of class – working our way up from 100 yards to just about 1/2 mile (grades 5-8 started at 1/4 mile) – partly as a warm up, partly as conditioning for the longer distance runs for the Presidential Fitness tests. It probably helped that class size at that school topped off at 32 kids per grade, so with grades 5&6 and 7&8 sharing PE periods (and split along gender lines), 90% of the time we were playing rather than sitting on the sidelines waiting to take our turns (we also got a short paper test on the actual rules & regulations of each sport we played). Add in the additional 1/2hr of free recess where we had open access to sports equipment and a sledding hill (trudging up that thing repeatedly through the snow was itself a workout!), and we got a lot of activity in during school hours.

    I was stunned when I got to high school and realized that not only did we only have PE 2 or 3 days a week, there was no 1/2 mile run at the beginning of class and very little play time unless you were one of the school sports teams kids. And they wondered why there was such a stark physical difference between the sports teams players and the rest of us. Also, if it was a choice between recess and study hall, recess would have been better, hands down (then again, I was the type of kid who often had did her homework during class).

    Video games are also an issue (and not just for kids – I can’t tell you how many friends of mine end up spending whole weekends on the Xbox). They’re not bad, but like most things, should be played with in moderation. My parents wouldn’t buy us a video game system (and this was back in the days of Atari and the first Nintendo) because they didn’t want us to sit inside on our butts when we could be outside playing; my mother even videotaped the afternoon cartoons we liked to watch so that we could watch them at night, after dinner & homework and a full afternoon of playing outside (being able to fast forward through commercials didn’t hurt either).

    Diet is also definitely a consideration. Candy, sweet cereals and pop weren’t verboten in the house – especially not when both my parents were chocoholics – but my mother was very careful about parsing it out in reasonable portions (I do have to wonder what she thought of my dad’s stash of Paydays & Reeses Peanut Buttercups in his study though). I do believe that children should be encouraged as much as possible to eat healthier and be taught about nutrition so they can understand what their food choices and activity levels mean for them. Ideally, that knowledge would help them to make better choices, ie – if you want to play video games, that’s ok, but that probably means eating less processed junk food and more fruit & veggies, while if you’re more active, that occasional Snickers bar habit isn’t going to be as much of a problem. If there’s anything I favor regulating more in schools, it’s what’s offered to kids during mealtimes. Pizza & hot dogs are ok in moderation, but I do think schools, as well as parents, have a responsibility to encourage healthy eating habits in their charges. Offering healthier food, snacks and drinks in schools can’t hurt, right? I’ve read about some schools that have had great success with miniature farming programs, where the students grow veggies on school grounds that they care for, harvest and eat/donate to the community (hey, another way to get kids active AND appreciate healthy food!). Here’s a link to similar programs being conducted in the Chicago area if anyone’s interested in reading up on it:

    However, I do think that kids’ levels of activities outside of school makes a HUGE amount of difference in their physical health and is possibly the biggest aspect of the growing childhood obesity problem. Unstructured play is an essential part of the childhood experience in my opinion – climbing trees, riding bikes and hiking for the fun of it, sorting your own pick-up game of football/basketball/capture the flag or whatever are some of the best memories I have of being a kid. Not to mention, it gave us a chance to learn ON OUR OWN how to work with others by organizing our own games, negotiating rules, figuring out who was responsible for what, sharing equipment and/or play space, sharing skills by teaching/being taught by each other (like how to bounce a soccer ball of your head or throw a killer curveball), etc. How would we have learned all that if some adult had been doing it for us? We can’t expect kids to be active and healthy if we’re not giving them the chance to be because we’re too afraid that they’ll get hurt doing [insert sport/activity/adventure here].

  27. ebohlman August 4, 2009 at 1:27 am #

    Angle: At my high school, playing on a team satisfied your PE requirement. That had the nice side-effect (which I only just realized, 33+ years after the fact, when I read your post) that regular PE classes weren’t jock-oriented. Now if only the school hadn’t, about 15 years ago, renamed their PE department as the “department of kinetic wellness”…

    MFA: Actually, childhood obesity/overweight has held steady for the last 10 years. Most of the increase was in the 80s and 90s. You make an excellent point about the value of unstructured play in learning to negotiate rules and other aspects of life; without that experience, kids reach adulthood unable to do anything without being told what to do; in addition to the limitation of their lives that results, it leads to a generation who want an authoritarian society.

    MUch of the movement toward “structuring” every aspect of kids’ lives amounts to turning what used to be play into work. Americans have always felt that their peers are lacking in work ethic (virtually everyone thinks they work much harder than their co-workers) and raising a workaholic seems like worthy goal to way too many parents (all research shows workaholics don’t actually accomplish anything more than ordinary people). Americans work longer hours than the people in every other country in the developed world (yes, that includes Japan; Americans started working longer hours than Japanese almost 40 years ago).

  28. MFA Grad August 4, 2009 at 1:50 am #

    ebohlman –

    That’s a great point about how “structuring” playdates/games/etc. can make kids more susceptible to accepting an authoritarian society. Where I went to school as a kid, we were encouraged to think for ourselves and taught that curiosity was no bad thing and questioning what we were told wasn’t wrong as long as we had solid arguments to back our positions up. Imagine my surprise when I got to high school and found that this wasn’t the case in schools everywhere! I count myself inordinately lucky that my parents were able to provide me with that kind of formal education.

    Your point about how play seems to be turning into work is also very astute. As if playing volleyball or martial arts or learning piano would have less virtue if it were being done for fun and expanding one’s experience by learning something new even though it’s not particularly necessary, rather than as a means of developing a work ethic or attaining a particular goal.

    Sometimes I wonder if that’s part of the problem in motivating kids to be more active (whether in sports or arts or community-building programs) and take more of an interest in school; when things are being sold as “work” – when they could also be fun – it’s harder to get kids to be interested in it. Sure, kids can get exercise, learn about teamwork and how to challenge themselves by, say, playing Little League or Pee-Wee football, but how about encouraging them to play just because it’s, well, fun?

  29. SheWhoPicksUpToys August 4, 2009 at 3:11 am #

    I remember when my daughter was in 4-5 year old YMCA soccer, it wasn’t Y policy, but the volunteer coach parent decided that there would be a snack brought by one parent and a bunch of juice boxes brought by another parent to every game.

    The games lasted half an hour. That is to say, the time from the beginning of the game until they were done was 30 minutes — I think the actual playing time was more like 25. Of course with the snack, it lengthened out to 35-40, but without it, it would have been 30-stinkin-minutes between the time they could have had something to eat before the game started and the time their parents could have given them something afterward, if they really needed it. Why on earth do kids need a snack provided for a 30 minute interval in the middle of a Saturday morning?

  30. Carol August 4, 2009 at 6:14 am #

    ONe issue is too much homework eating up daylight too. And don’t judge the kids that are overweight – I have one skinny kid and one heavier kid – both are equally active. They ride their bikes, we have healthy food, and the skinny one probably eats more because he has a fast metabolism. Now, with the heavier one, there are some (very few) food issues, but a lot is just bad luck in the genetic draw. (and the poor guy got the bad teeth too.)

    I think the judging helps keeps kids fat too – because once they are heavier, they get the comments and really is a cupcake gonna hurt if they are already fat?

  31. ebohlman August 4, 2009 at 7:01 am #

    SheWho: My guess is that once upon a time, some kid developed low blood sugar while playing and the powers that be, rather than thinking that this meant that somebody ought to bring something to have on hand for any kid it happened to, thought it meant that everyone should be treated as being at equal risk.

  32. MaeMae August 4, 2009 at 7:16 am #

    In most cases I agree that kids do not need a snack after games and practices. We’ve found that after an 1 and 1/2 hockey practice the kids really do need something. Usually, a cup of chocolate milk or some water and a handful of grapes are all it takes. I can’t stand when my kids come out of the locker room with a huge Gatorade and a bag of chips. I think part of the reason snacks are served are for the social aspect. My kids love sitting in the locker room drinking their juice and talking with their teammates. Angela Ruggiero states in her book that as much as she loved hockey as a child “…I have to admit, though, it was the after-game rituals that I really loved as well as the game itself. Someone always offered us juice boxes and snacks, as the coach gave us the post-game pep talk.” I’m not advocating the snacks but I feel if we must serve them let’s give them something healthy. Kids need protein and water after being very physical. How about celery with peanut butter? Bananas? Anything but cookies please!

  33. sonya August 5, 2009 at 2:45 am #

    Actually the original quote that the blogger was refuting was “It seems self-evident to suggest that if schools that have eliminated physical education and RECESS [my caps] reinstituted them, there would be fewer obese adolescents in America.” I think there is a lot of truth that RECESS is important to keeping kids active and healthy (and allowing them to use their imagination and play). Recess is far more important than PE. Certainly my daughter gets much more tired out from running around the playground with her friends than being forced to learn how to bounce a tennis ball.

  34. Susan J Sohn August 5, 2009 at 3:21 am #

    thank you!!!!! honestly this is a simple equation. put healthy stuff in + a little outdoor fun = healthy children both mentally, physically, emotionally. Need we say more.
    Love this one Lenore.

  35. Patti August 5, 2009 at 4:48 am #

    Angie: I’m sorry you have such a poor impression of PE teachers. My kids’ current teacher gives them little awards if she sees them putting in a lot of effort regardless of the outcome. My kids are so proud of those certificates because they don’t get them for what they’re naturally good at, they get them for hard work.

    As for snacks at kids’ sporting events, I hate them. The food choices are terrible and most of the time my kids can’t eat what’s been brought because of food allergies (note: I do not feel other parents should feel constrained by our food issues, that’s just life for us). I always bring something my kids can eat, so they’re used to that, but do they really need more food? Soccer is always around dinner time, so my kids either have just eaten or will eat immediately following soccer. Basketball is right before or after lunch. Why do we need snacks to ruin their healthy meals? And who ever said it was better to bring bagged badness than some fruit and water? It’s sad. And when I say, “no, thank you” I always get asked why and told to just take some for the road (of course we’re usually headed for the dangerous playground afterward, but whatever). Do they think we might starve on our way home? Anyway, I’d love for the snack thing to just stop. And don’t get me started on snack during activities that DON’T include physical activity!

  36. Angie August 5, 2009 at 7:14 am #

    Patti — it sounds like your kids have lucked out, at least this year. My experience, both personally as a kid and later when I wrote a paper on the subject for a college anthro class, is that your teacher’s attitude is unfortunately rare. I forgot to mention in my rant above that while I never saw a teacher take a slowing kid’s pulse (or even just go up to take a good look at breathing, flushing, signs of elevated heartrate), I did more than once see a kid who’d been pushed to keep running in the heat until he or she had to stop and vomit in the weeds. None of those occasions made the teachers involved change their strategy at all. It was only in college, where the students were free to walk out at any time, that teachers took care to assess individual performance, and leave the students who were doing less than mandated but still clearly pushing themselves to judge their own activity levels.

    I’m happy for your kids, but my own opinion of the public school PE system in general is irredeemably low.


  37. SheWhoPicksUpToys August 5, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    ebohlman — no, it probably wasn’t that, because like I said it wasn’t Y policy, it was just one particular parent-volunteer coach who decided the kids on his team couldn’t go 1/2 hour without a snack. So while I agree that might be the case sometimes, I don’t think that’s what was happening here. I think this WAS just an example of people who think kids need a constant steady stream of food, preferably provided in an “organized” fashion as opposed to expecting parents to bring something if their kids are the kind who get hungry frequently.

  38. SheWhoPicksUpToys August 5, 2009 at 10:03 am #

    MaeMae– sure, a 90 minute hockey practice is a lot different from a 30 minute soccer game (with little kids who sit out about 10 minutes of that game, and mostly aren’t even playing all that hard.) I am certainly not saying that snacks associated with practices and such are bad. It’s the overkill of the people who think that kids can’t be involved in ANY organized activity without “snack” being involved, regardless of whether the length of the event makes it reasonable or not, that I’m reacting to. Certainly a mentality that kids can’t turn around without someone “making sure” they aren’t hungry for two seconds could contribute to bad eating habits.

  39. MaeMae August 5, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    @SWPUT – I agree with you. Even after hockey I would prefer if each parent brought a snack if they thought their child needed it. This is a problem everywhere too, not just sports. I had a problem with Sunday mornings. We would eat at home and a hour later in Sunday School the kids were given cupcakes, candy or chips as a snack. Then we had coffee hour before church and there was always leftover cakes, cookies or brownies. No fresh fruit or blueberry muffins or anything remotely healthy. THEN it was on to Children’s Church and another snack. I had to forbid my children to eat at church except for the rare instances something healthy was offered at coffee hour. I felt terrible but snacking is so rampant. I want my children to eat balanced meals not junk food all day long. This is where homeschooling has been beneficial. We spend a lot of time on meal preparation, snacking, healthy eating habits, calories in/calories out as our health class. I’m able to teach it in relation to our everyday life so (hopefully, fingers crossed) it’s not giving them a complex but a foundation for future habits. Why do parents think their kids need a snack every hour or so? I don’t get it.


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