Playgrounds Give Kids the Tools to Get Fit

First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiatives to fight childhood obesity have so far ranged from wishy-washy to downright wrongheaded. But today, the campaign took a promising turn with news of a $1 million grant from Disney to build playgrounds in 10 poor communities across America.

The First Lady heralded the charitable donation to her Let’s Move! initiative in a statement:

"I hope through programs like the Magic of Healthy Living young people are inspired to take control of their own health, fitness and nutrition and engage their families, schools and communities to do the same," she said.

She’s right about that: Teaching personal responsibility to kids and giving them the resources to get and stay active are the essential first steps in combating childhood obesity. And using private grant money to build playgrounds is a more elegant solution than raiding the Food Stamp budget to change what kids eat, as Michelle Obama has also proposed.

The CDC this spring released a review of 50 studies that found not only can recess and physical education bolster students' fitness levels, but physical activity improves their attentiveness, concentration, and test scores, too. And it doesn’t have to be complex, either: A 2005 study in the journal Preventive Medicine found that merely painting lines on a schoolyard playground increased activity levels by 40 percent among students.

However, in a 2009 Pediatrics study, less than a third of kids reported getting any recess time to play during the school hours, which comprise the majority of their day. If getting kids fit for life is the goal, Mrs. Obama has got to make activity the priority.

After all, balancing tasty treats and moderate exercise seems to be working out well for her husband.

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