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The Rx – Exercise!

The call to action has been heard and a team of community partners are ready to spring into action. Vámonos Chesterfield!

The challenges facing young people living along the Jefferson Davis Highway corridor can seem daunting. They face a host of health risk such as obesity and diabetes. Living in poverty means that they often encounter acute and chronic stress, which can have negative effects on their brain’s growth and their ability to perform necessary cognitive functions such as focused attention, working memory, planning and decision making. Poverty can use up so much of their mental bandwidth, that they have no willpower leftover to work hard and excel in school.

The Big Question

If there was just one thing that we could do to make the biggest positive impact on young people living in poverty—what would that be?

Thankfully researchers now have finally found one, simple thing that children can do that will have a wide spread and lasting effect—exercise!

Numerous studies  point to the benefits of a regular routine of at least 30 minutes of exercise per day. Exercise has been found to:

  • Improve the structure and function of the brain
  • Improve physical health, fight obesity  and help prevent diabetes
  • Boost the immune system and fight common maladies such as colds and the flu
  • Reduce symptoms of depression through the bodies “natural antidepressant”
  • Help improve  ADHD symptoms by relieving tension and improving mood and focus
  • Improve self-esteem

Unfortunately, children living in low income communities have less access to safe and welcoming places to play. They have fewer, affordable after-school programs to choose from and are often priced out of local sports leagues or are unable to get to practices and games that are conducted outside of their local community. Schools, which are focused more than ever on standardized test, have had to cut time from recess and physical education to dedicate more time towards preparing for test.

The Good News

Fortunately there is a bright light at the end of the tunnel. If community partners will come together to create more opportunities for children to get outside and play, to add more affordable after-school programs and to improve access to local sports leagues, this will greatly impact their overall health and help them academically as well.