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Forrest Williams, Mississippi

by Elizabeth W. on Thursday, February 6, 2014

Forrest Williams Jackson, Mississippi

On January 27, I had the privilege to travel to Washington D.C., as an advocate for the American Heart Association to advocate for the Fit-Kids Act (S.1033/ H.R. 2178).  It was an experience of a lifetime and one that I will always be proud to have been a part of with other advocates from around the United States.  I learned of the alarming fact that almost 22% of Mississippi's children are obese; that is too many!   

I have been a Physical Education teacher and coach for 10+ years in several different states, including Louisiana, Alabama, Texas, and Mississippi.

Having more physical education in our children's school days interests me even further because I am a father of two sons, who are now active in PE classes at their school.  My sons are 3 and 6 years old and are fortunate enough to have  weekly PE classes, as well as multiple, daily playground time.  As I've grown to learn, not every elementary, middle and high school has a certified PE teacher.  Some schools rely on a general teacher to fill in the gap and 'occupy' the kids during that time period, which often times is not held accountable with vigorous exercise and activity.

However, some schools are fortunate enough to have a passionate PE teacher that will go the extra mile for the student, pun intended.  One school I had the priviledge to be on faculty for three years, had a PE teacher as I just described.  She came early to school and stayed late after the last bell to create and maintain a running club for the elementary and middle school students, not old enough to participate on the school track teams.  Several days a week they would walk, jog or run around the track to music blaring from the loudspeakers.  This made exercise and running fun for every participating student and kept them coming back for more.  At the end of the year, the students are individually recognized for how many miles they completed during the school year.  Several students end up with over a hundred miles by the end of the year!

At this stage of school, many students are involved in athletics and continue to receive plenty of activity and training, year-round.  Students not involved in athletics need more avenues to maintain an active lifestyle, even as they work activity classes around academic concerns.  However, the experiences I've shared are a great way to start young kids out on the right food and give them the opportunity to learn what it means to have an active lifestyle – for life!  I have been an athletics coach for 10+ years and have seen firsthand the positive impact that physical activity has on a student’s overall being, not only physically but mentally and emotionally.
 
I truly believe that if kids are in an ‘active’ environment and encouraged to be healthy kids, then they will remember how good it feels and want to be a healthy adult.  This pattern of thinking and motivation could possibly change generations if we simply offered more opportunities for physical activity throughout the school day.  Studies have shown that the more students are active, the less behavioral problems occur.  Fit Kids = Fit Adults which could potentially carry on from generation to generation within a family, therefore ending our obesity epidemic in Mississippi. 

Our children need the best start on a healthy life.

Written by Forrest Williams