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Kid's fitness and nutrition day supports healthy lifestyles

The University of Nebraska at Kearney held its 10th annual Kid's Fitness and Nutrition Day last month to continue efforts helping kids develop healthy habits. Children from schools within 50 miles attended the event, at which fourth-grade students were invited to participate in physical activities that used sports equipment. 

Stations were designed to educate kids on the importance of fitness. One station offered each child a piece of candy, an apple or beef jerky. Depending on which was chosen, the child was required to run the amount of time it would take to burn all the calories from that food item. That ended up being four minutes for the apple, five for the beef jerky and 10 for the candy. This exercise gave kids a kinetic association with the food they ate. 

Another station featured logic nutrition, where children were taught how to read and understand food labels. Children were given a better understanding of what to look for when eating packaged food items. They had to identify things like calories, saturated fats and serving size. Volunteers helped explain what each of those things were. 

The importance of Kid's Fitness and Nutrition Day is supported by studies in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). One study sought to measure the effectiveness of compulsory physical activities in schools. The study looked at a one-year period and charted the physical and psychological health of the participants. There were 540 total participants from 28 classrooms at 15 schools in Switzerland. Participants varied in gender, age and fitness level, giving the study a large test group. 

During the study, researchers evaluated body fat, aerobic fitness via a shuttle run test, physical activity and quality of life based on questionnaires given. Secondary evaluations looked at body mass index (BMI) and cardiovascular risk score. One group of children was given a physical program with three regular physical education lessons per week, two extra physical activities, short activity breaks and physical homework. These children saw a reduction in body fat, increased aerobic fitness and more vigorous activity during school. Physical and psychological quality of life did not increase significantly.

Researchers concluded that school-based physical activity programs that featured a multi-dimensional design improved fitness and physical health in children. 

These results go to show the importance of programs such as Kid's Fitness and Nutrition Day, where children continue their education in health outside of school. 

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