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Saturday, June 04, 2016

The Impact of Healthy Routines and Environments

Weekend guests and I discussed the impact of healthy routines and environments today as we all work in public health, education, or hospitals.

We looked back at lifestyle events and decisions that had both positive and negative impacts on what we do and who we are.

I mentioned how Massachusetts' rules related to healthy foods in schools and no smoking had positively impacted the workplace since I started working. I would love it if we extended the healthy foods rules to our staffroom too as it would have a positive impact on me just as the positive foods in school have had a positive impact on students.

I also thought about ways that we might work more to foster healthy snacks and lunches for students who bring them from home. This year a number of students brought soda and chips for snacks and those students demonstrated less energy as the day wore on while students who brought water and healthy snacks exhibited greater energy throughout the day. How can we help families with this? My friend mentioned that it takes more time and sometimes more money to pack the healthy snacks which makes me wonder if we need to have a healthy recess snack bar at school to promote this.

Further we discussed the connection between child routines and future health. In the group, some of us had plenty of exercise and more reasonable expectations as children while others had little opportunity for exercise and too much responsibility as children. Those of us with less opportunity for recreation, sports, exercise, and reasonable responsibility tended to have less ideal weights while those of us that had a better balance as children had more desirable weights. (Note that for many women, equal rights in sports was not instituted at the time they were school students). The balanced routines and supports we offer children when they are young directly affect their lifestyle as adults.

So, with all this in mind, how do we support healthy routines and environments in the school house. What can we do to give our students and ourselves the best possible conditions for current and future health and happiness. Here are a few suggestions that I plan to put in place:
  • Pose the idea of healthy-food staff rooms by prompting the elimination of unhealthy food as much as possible.
  • Work with parents, students, and colleagues to support healthy snacks and lunches to optimize energy and health.
  • Continue to follow State mandated rules about healthy foods in the schoolhouse.
  • Continue to support all Green Team initiatives including the school garden, composting, water conservation, little to no use of plastics, and recycling, reuse, and reduce.
  • Include lots of movement breaks and embed movement into learning experiences whenever possible.
  • Support wonderful playgrounds and substantial recess.
  • Create ways to give students the opportunity to learn, appreciate, and experience the natural world around them. 
  • Make sure that teachers' responsibilities and support lead to healthy living rather than "all work and no play."
There's lots we can do to forward healthy environments in our school settings--the kinds of environments that give students the chance to live healthy, happy, and successful adult lives.  

What would you add to this discussion?