OSU Extension toolkit has rural students stepping up their physical activity

BEPA Toolkit activity card
A sample card from OSU Extension Service’s Balanced Energy-Physical Activity (BEPA) Toolkit.

The prevalence of overweight and obesity among children ages 6-11 has climbed steadily over the last three decades. Data consistently show that rural children experience higher levels of obesity and 26 percent greater odds of becoming obese compared to their non-rural counterparts.

Current research shows that children are getting less than 20 minutes of health-promoting physical activity in a seven-hour school day. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention American Heart Association recommend 60 minutes a day of moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Oregon State University Extension Service researchers, in an effort to encourage physical activity in rural elementary schools, developed the Balanced Energy Physical Activity Toolkit (BEPA-Toolkit). The toolkit was borne out of a unique school-based approach to obesity prevention in six rural school districts, said toolkit creator Kathy Gunter, an OSU Extension Service physical activity specialist.

 In a pilot study, OSU found that children in rural Oregon elementary school classrooms in which the toolkit is used, are getting more physical activity, as measured by pedometers that the students wore as part of the study.

The toolkit is geared toward elementary-school age children who are just beginning to learn about the importance of nutrition and exercise. Activities include “Activate the Alphabet,” “Bean Bag Balance,” “Dicey Moves” and “Fruit and Veggie Volleyball.” The games range from 5 to 20 minutes, with most being 15 minutes.

The toolkit includes activity cards, a user guide and video tutorials. In addition to instructions and talking points, the activities included in the handbook are embedded with health messages, providing more opportunities for children to practice being physically active.

Source: Kathy Gunter, OSU Extension specialist

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