It is outstanding, yet not surprising, that area school districts are prioritizing health and wellness for students as what’s now called ‘the obesity epidemic’ reaches across the globe.

According to recent statistics, about one-third of American children and teenagers in the obese category, making childhood obesity a leading health concern for parents, physicians, and educators. As many habits are developed and set in the childhood years, it is important that health and wellness take top priority to help prevent a host of chronic illnesses and disease later in life.

Technology has played a role in this trend toward a more sedentary lifestyle. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the average child spends more than seven hours a day in front of a screen—be it television, the internet and/or cell phone playing video games or chatting or checking social media accounts. Increased screen time means decreased physical activity, which can lead to weight gain.

In Almont, middle school students recently participated in the Active Schools Challenge, aimed at getting youths up and moving for at least 30 minutes each day. Phys Ed teacher Erik Johnson noted that students put down their devices and took part in a variety of activities in the gym. Some even joined the school’s new Walking Club, which includes both students and staff. Incentives were added to encourage participation. Students earned gift cards to Subway and Tropical Smoothie, among other healthy options.

Imlay City students have long been taking part in the annual ACES Day. An acronym for ‘All Children Exercising Simultaneously,’ ACES Day is a global event that was created in 1989 by phys ed teacher Len Saunders. The goal is to encourage and promote physical fitness through exercise. Imlay City Middle School phys ed teacher Greg Prendergast has taken it a step further. Every year for ACES Day Prendergast brings in a special guest speaker—an Imlay City High School graduate—who has found happiness and success in the physical fitness and/or sports industry.

This year, the Imlay City School District has added a ‘5-2-1-0’ challenge for students and their families. The program aims at creating new, healthy habits for youths while engaging the entire family. Every day, participants are encouraged to eat five (5) servings of fruits and vegetables, limit screen time to two (2) hours or less, engage in one (1) hour of exercise, and have zero (0) sugary drinks. Students and families track their progress and have a chance to win prizes.

These are just a few examples of the efforts being made in schools around the Tri-City area to promote wellness and health. These programs, and others implemented in area schools, also demonstrate once again the dedication and forward-thinking of area school district officials and the school boards they answer to. We encourage parents to work with their children to help make these programs a success.