Recent reports show that 1 out of 5 adolescents are now prediabetic, meaning they have high blood sugar levels, but not quite high enough to be diagnosed as having type 2 diabetes (Andes et al., 2019).
Unfortunately, there aren’t consistent outward signs or symptoms for prediabetes, so until someone has moved to type 2 diabetes, it is difficult to know if he/she is at risk. Multiple risk factors for type 2 diabetes include excess weight, poor dietary patterns, inactivity, sleep, and other genetic factors such as age, family history, and race.
Educating Student Health
As a teacher, student health isn’t your responsibility. Right? On paper, no. You are responsible for educating each child and hopefully motivating them to develop their abilities and seek to learn more. Teacher effectiveness is gauged in many ways, but student test scores are a major outcome in which teachers tend to be evaluated.
However, when students are in your care, you do have a responsibility to educate them—and health falls within this realm. Thus, fostering positive health practices for students might not be your major priority, but it can be and should be fostered if possible. This is not only for student quality of life, but because healthier students are better learners (Basch, 2011).
Avoid Long Bouts of Sedentary Behavior
Part of being healthy is avoiding long bouts of sedentary behavior. Schools are notorious for encouraging sedentary behavior. Students likely sit 5+ hours out of a seven hour school day. While some sitting cannot be avoided, you can help reduce the long bouts of sedentary behavior typically occurring for students during the school day. Even if you have 90 minutes devoted to a math lesson, students are more likely to remain on-task and focused if they are allowed to move around during that time. After all, as an adult, how long can you sit and focus intently on content being taught or shown without fidgeting? I know my max is about 20 minutes, and then my mind begins to wander. I feel the urge to stand up or grab my phone.
Did you know…that only 45% of schools offer regular physical activity breaks during the school day?
Studies have shown that even small bouts of activity can have positive effects on youth overweight status (Mark & Janssen, 2009). Let’s help increase percent of schools offering activity breaks by finding ways to offer movement breaks or natural breaks for our students, even if it means they simply stand up to grab a piece of paper or move to a different work space part way through the lesson.
Andes, L. J., Cheng, Y. J., Rolka, D. B., Gregg, E. W., & Imperatore, G. (2019). Prevalence of Prediabetes Among Adolescents and Young Adults in the United States, 2005-2016. JAMA pediatrics, e194498-e194498.
Basch, C. E. (2011). Healthier students are better learners: A missing link in school reforms to close the achievement gap. Journal of school health, 81(10), 593-598.
Mark, A. E., & Janssen, I. (2009). Influence of bouts of physical activity on overweight in youth. American journal of preventive medicine, 36(5), 416-421.
Heather is a Professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health Promotion at the University of Kentucky. She is a former physical education teacher, and co-author of Dynamic Physical Education for Secondary School Children, 8ed. Heather was also the recipient of the NASPE Curriculum and Instruction Young Scholar Award and a AAHPERD Research Consortium Fellow.