At the start of school: Becoming physically — and academically — fit

By Cathleen Kronemer Special to the Jewish Light

By Cathleen Kronemer

Special to the Jewish Light

The presence of the big yellow buses on neighborhood streets can only mean one thing: Summer has come to an end for youngsters, and the regimen of school days is now upon them.  

While it is always fun to see old classmates, meet new friends, and catch up on all the latest summer gossip during lunch period, our children will find themselves leading a much more sedentary life than that which they enjoyed during summer vacation.


According to research data from 2005, 20 percent of all elementary schools in the United States have eliminated recess during the school day, choosing instead to focus on increased classroom time in an effort to improve student achievement. In fact, less than 25 percent of children are engaged in 30 minutes of any type of daily physical activity.

This is a sad state of affairs, especially when we consider the correlations that have been observed between physical activity and school performance.  Several studies have stated that providing increased time for physical activity can lead to better student concentration, reduced disruptive behaviors and higher test scores in reading, math and writing.

Given that the school system may not be providing adequate time for physical recreation, how can we as parents ensure that our busy and academically overloaded children receive proper fitness outlets?  Here is where creativity might come into play.  

Let’s face it: Organized competitive team sports are not for everyone. If you have a child who has chosen not to play soccer, softball, football or lacrosse, there are still plenty of ways to encourage physical activity.  Many gyms now offer innovative youth programs such as beginning boxing, introduction to weight training, synchronized swimming and even golf lessons. If a gym membership is not in the budget, most public parks have walking trails with “fitness stations,” which include pull-up bars, balance beams, and other simple pieces of equipment. Some are even equipped with hanging baskets for a game of Frisbee Golf.

One need not be heading to the Tour de France in order to enjoy the health benefits of a bike ride.  Even taking the family dog for a brisk walk every day after dinner is a great way to get the heart rate elevated.

Lest you become overly concerned with the time that must be allotted to such activities, research has shown that students who participate in after-school-hours sports develop better time-management skills than their more sedentary counterparts, which usually leads to better academic performance.

While you will no doubt be called upon fairly soon to help with homework assignments, do your children a favor and help them stay active as well. By promoting the idea of healthy living, we can bring about long term — changes in activity levels as well as improve academic achievement.

Cathleen Kronemer, NSCA-CPT, Certified Health Coach, is a longtime fitness instructor at the Jewish Community Center. Read her weekly ‘Lighten Up’ fitness blog online at