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Guest column | Mike McGinnis

Give students a healthy start to the new school year

Well, it's that time again — the time that some parents of school-age children affectionately refer to as "the most wonderful time of the year."

Without doubt, the vast majority of parents already have or soon will be making necessary purchases to equip their children for that special event known as the first day of school. The farewell of the Florida tax holiday certainly made the task of collecting school-related items higher in cost but, nevertheless, parents have to do what they have to do to best prepare their child.

As a physical education teacher, I want to inform parents that new threads and treads, along with the usual assortment of school desk paraphernalia, are givens for the new school year, but be mindful of the important physical demands and adjustments that are essential for children to perform and achieve to their optimal level.

Parents, please give attention to the following tried and proven practices for your child's healthy start to a new school year.

Adequate sleep: Getting the proper amount of restful sleep is absolutely imperative for school-age children. Professionals in the field recommend 10 to 12 hours of sleep for primary-age children and eight to 10 for intermediate-age children. Nothing recharges the human body's batteries better than a night of deep and peaceful sleep.

Nutritional breakfast: Commonly known as the most important meal of the day — and for good reason — the early day consumption of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals awakens the body's many functions to generate the necessary energy to enable top-level brain and muscle activity to occur. The avoidance or skimping of breakfast is totally detrimental to the cause of being mentally alert and educationally ready. Don't fuss. Breakfast is a must!

Healthy lunch: School cafeterias provide lunches that meet the nutritional standards set by government guidelines. Also, the preparation of a homemade lunch should include fresh fruits and vegetables, a high-protein-with-minimal-calories sandwich (such as turkey, tuna fish or chicken), and low-fat treats including diet puddings and Jell-O, along with a healthy beverage of low-fat milk or juice.

Outdoor activities: Pinellas County school-age children receive a minimum of 150 minutes of physical education instruction per week. A few preparations will ensure that your child's activity experience is enhanced.

The majority of elementary schools permit students to bring a small container of water to class to quench thirst and aid the body's natural cooling system. Loose-fitting clothing allows air to flow close to the skin, assisting the evaporation of perspiration.

Wearing white or light-color clothing reflects the sun's rays, while black or dark colored clothing tends to absorb heat. The wearing of hats that give facial shade is allowed only in physical education class, not indoors. Finally, the home application of a sunscreen product with an SPF of 30 or higher is recommended for students who are fair-skinned and toast in a brief amount of time.

Parents, be smart at the start by following these suggestions and recommendations, which will certainly aid your child's health and physical well-being throughout the quickly approaching new school year.

Mike McGinnis of Clearwater teaches physical education at Woodlawn Elementary School in St. Petersburg.

Give students a healthy start to the new school year 08/19/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 19, 2009 5:10pm]
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