Healthy Living Pathway
Note: The Healthy Living Pathway is an expanded and updated version of the Green Hour pathway. It continues to emphasize the importance of time outdoors, but also now encompasses other aspects key to healthy development including general physical fitness and unstructured play.
The state of our health is directly related not only to long-term physical well-being but also to emotional and social factors: our general happiness, confidence and outlook on life. There is also a clear relationship between health and educational attainment.
As Americans, our overall health is declining. Childhood obesity has tripled over the past three decades, with one in three children now considered overweight or obese. At the same time, American childhood has moved indoors, taking a mental and physical toll on today’s kids. Health care costs are skyrocketing, while creativity, concentration and social skills are on the decline. Only one quarter of children play outside daily, while on average, kids spend more than seven hours per day in front of electronic screens. The use of antidepressant drugs for children has risen sharply. Reports suggest that, for the first time in two centuries, the current generation of children may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
The good news is that there are remedies, and not only are they effective, they're fun! Studies show that time spent outdoors and active helps children grow lean and strong, enhances imaginations and attention spans, decreases aggression, and boosts classroom performance. In addition, children who spend time in nature regularly are shown to become better stewards of the environment.
What Can Schools Do about Healthy Living?
After the influence of the family, formal education is one of the most important factors in encouraging healthy attitudes and habits in children and young people. It has been estimated that the average student will spend some 15,000 hours of his or her life at school. Schools, therefore, play a vital role in promoting not only regular exercise and healthy diets but in developing students' emotional well-being.
To address the current threats to health in our society, it’s clear that schools need to be part of the equation when it comes to helping students to lead healthy and active lives. The Healthy Living pathway will assist Eco-Schools in striving to:
- Respect individuals and promote their mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
- Recognize the importance of the environment as an important contributor to well-being.
- Provide students with consistent opportunities for outdoor activity and exploration.
- Develop a health and physical education program and learning/teaching styles that place the student at the center of education.
- Provide a range of support mechanisms and a safe environment that gives students the confidence to learn.
- Actively promote health through the curriculum, school culture and the way the school is managed.
- Encourage students and staff to be more physically active both in and out of school.
- Equip students with knowledge, skills and attitudes that provide springboards to long-term health throughout their lives.
Check out the Top Ten Tips to see what you can do right away to help your students live healthier lives.
The school building itself can have a large influence on the physical health of the school population, too. Topics such as indoor air quality, toxics, and daylight are addressed under the Eco-Schools USA Healthy Schools pathway.
The food we eat also has a great impact on overall health. See the Eco-Schools USA Sustainable Food pathway for more information about optimizing nutrition through a school food campaign.
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