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It’s about your child’s health

Young Observer got up close and personal with Arnold Manders this school year to learn more about FitnessGram, a fitness assessment and reporting programme he is spearheading in the Government school system.

Mr Manders is the Curriculum Officer for Physical Education and Health. In this position he is responsible for the delivery of PE and Health Curriculum, professional development, supervision of teachers and their PE programmes in the 18 primary schools, five middle schools and two senior Government schools across the Island.

Mr Manders is a well-known figure in Bermuda with a strong sports history which earned him a four-year soccer scholarship at Alabama A&M University.

He has represented Bermuda as a captain, the Bermuda Under-19 coach and Bermuda national cricket coach and played for St George's at Cup Match from 1978 to 1998.

We asked Mr Manders where he gets his motivation from. He told us: “I've loved sports from young. I get great enjoyment and pleasure teaching, coaching and working with Bermuda's youth — helping them to become responsible citizens and developing the whole child/person in every child/person.”

He shared some of his hopes for the youth and sports in Bermuda. He told us: “My vision is for each and every child to develop to their full potential and for sporting bodies/organisations to become more aware of and implement the long-term Athlete Development model.”

What is the current situation with the health of our students?

According to Steps to a Well Bermuda and the most recent information published by the World Health Organisation, Bermuda is the number one obese and overweight country in the world (with 74 per cent of the population either overweight or obese).

This statistic is almost identical to the statistics in our Government schools (69 per cent either overweight or obese).

How many hours of sport do students currently have in their school curriculum?

Primary: average 120 minutes (two 60-minute periods or three 30-40 minute periods per week) year-round.

Middle: average 100 minutes (two 50 minutes per week) year-round.

Senior: average 235 minutes (five 47-minute periods per week) half-year.

What is FitnessGram?

FitnessGram is a fitness assessment and reporting programme for youth, first developed in 1982 by the Cooper Institute in response to the need for a comprehensive set of assessment procedures in physical education programmes. The assessment includes a variety of health-related physical fitness tests that assess aerobic capacity, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and flexibility and body composition. Scores from these assessments are compared to Healthy Fitness Zone standards to determine students' overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate.

What are the programme's goals?

To educate the students about health-related fitness.

To assist students on how to implement smart goals to improve their fitness.

To assist students in becoming physically literate citizens.

How does the programme deliver its goals?

The programme Scores from these assessments are compared to Healthy Fitness Zone standards to determine students' overall physical fitness and suggest areas for improvement when appropriate. More important, the report provides personalised suggestions that can help in planning an individualised fitness plan. Ultimately, FitnessGram and Activitygram is an educational tool that helps students learn — as part of a high quality, standards-based physical education curriculum — how it feels to become more physically fit and how to value a physically active lifestyle.

When it comes to your child's health, a fitness assessment is an important step for two main reasons:

1. It identifies your child's current level of health-related fitness. This information is directly related to his or her risk for developing conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or type 2 diabetes. While you may think your child is too young to worry about such things now, think again. Positive habits established now will improve the chances your child will be active and healthy for years to come.

2. It's a baseline for measurement. When children have an idea of the areas in which they're doing well as well as the areas that are in need of improvement, it's clear where they need to focus and which components of fitness need the most attention.

From here, working with your child's physical education teacher, you and your child can set goals to improve or maintain his or level of physical fitness through a variety of physical activities.

Why is this important?

It's about your child's health.

Fitness assessments should be a positive experience for your child. By using an assessment that focuses on health-related fitness instead of athletic performance and skill-related fitness, the potential for inappropriate comparisons between children is minimised.

Active children do better. Physical activity and good nutrition make for happier, more attentive, and more productive students.

When children are physically active they perform better academically. They have better attendance. They have higher self-esteem. Studies have shown a significant relationship between achievement on fitness tests and improved performance on state academic assessments.

What's the link? Students who are physically active are more likely to achieve healthy levels of fitness.

The physical education class plays an important role in helping your child be physically active. Therefore, the physical activity found in quality physical education may have an impact on cognitive skills, attitudes, and academic behaviour.

In addition, quality physical education helps create a framework of life skills that shape the whole person, encouraging smart choices and influencing a healthy lifestyle. Expand social and co-operative skills; problem-solving competencies; and the ability to make self-assessments, plan personal programmes, set goals, and make decisions. Provide learning experiences that may improve mental alertness, academic performance and readiness, and enthusiasm for learning in youth.

• For more information on FitnessGram: www.fitnessgram.net

Arnold Manders. (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

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Published December 31, 2015 at 8:00 am (Updated December 30, 2015 at 10:20 pm)

It’s about your child’s health

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