Nutrition Teen Health

Teen Health: Nutrition and Extracurricular Activities

We are in March, National Nutrition Month, when conversations about eating well and how it relates to physical and mental fitness take center stage. But this is also a great time to pay attention to the health and well-being of our school-going children, especially the teens. Three pillars: academics, nutrition, and extracurricular activities, hold firm in the hectic world of academia. It makes sense that academics draw a lot of attention, but it’s important to remember the importance of extracurricular activities and diet, too. They act as the cornerstones that support kids’ overall growth and let them realize their full potential.

Regretfully, accessibility is still a major problem, especially for underprivileged groups that have to deal with structural obstacles. Startling findings from an Ohio kindergarten study of 401 learners, for example, show how deep-rooted these issues are in our schooling systems. The study revealed that white children are 2.6 times more likely to participate in common extracurricular physical activities than kids of other racial groups.

Such findings highlight the need to remove structural barriers and provide fair access to opportunities for all teenagers, particularly Black kids. This is a deliberate, long-term investment in the future of our kids, whether it is by providing wholesome meals, a wide range of extracurricular activities, or curriculum-based health and wellness programs.

The Crucial Role of Nutrition and Extracurricular Activities in Schools

Exercise and a balanced diet are two of the most important components of a healthy lifestyle. Other than families, schools are also the ideal venue to teach young people how to adopt and maintain an active, healthy lifestyle since these choices improve a child’s overall growth and development and have positive effects throughout childhood and adulthood.

Nutrition: Nourishing Minds and Bodies

Expecting our teenagers to succeed intellectually without a healthy diet is unrealistic, just as a car requires gasoline. Our bodies and brains are powered by food intake, which affects critical functions, including mood, behavior, memory, and focus.

In fact, research has frequently demonstrated a link between good eating habits and academic ability. Students who eat balanced meals high in key nutrients are better able to focus in class, retain knowledge, and do well on examinations.

Healthy eating assists in preventing nutritional deficiencies, helps prevent oxidative stress, and boosts mood management. As a result, prioritizing nutritious school meals and supporting nutrition education ensures that students have the fuel they require to excel intellectually, mentally, and physically.

Healthy Eating Habits for Lifelong Benefits!

Eating well also benefits us as we age and is not simply important in our early years. Fruits, vegetables, nutritious grains, and lean meats all contribute to a healthy heart, lowering the risk of cardiac issues and high blood pressure. These two conditions are disproportionately more common in Black people.

Reducing consumption of high-fat and high-sugar meals can also help control blood sugar levels and delay the onset of conditions like type 2 diabetes, which is another condition that Blacks are more prone to grappling with. Controlling your portions and good eating habits can also help fight obesity, reducing the chance of aging-related cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

It’s also critical to continue eating brain-healthy foods throughout your life. Foodstuffs rich in omega-3 fatty acids and high in vitamins boost mood and alertness while promoting brain function. Taking foods rich in vitamin D and calcium is also crucial for maintaining strong bones and preventing conditions like rickets and osteoporosis. We can prepare Black teens for a happier and healthier future by encouraging them to eat properly from a young age at home and school.

Extracurricular Activities: Enriching Lives Beyond the Classroom

Regular exercise offers long-term advantages for both kids and adults. Starting physical activity like jogging or swimming early strengthens the heart and improves blood flow, similar to a healthy diet. This reduces the risk of heart issues and high blood pressure, which are frequent in older Black adults. Exercise also aids in the management of type 2 diabetes, which is more prevalent in this demographic than others.

Furthermore, consistent daily exercise helps manage weight and lowers the risk of complications associated with obesity, including diabetes and heart disease, especially when paired with a balanced diet. Physical activity also improves mood, reduces stress, and enhances cognitive function, all supporting mental health and lowering the risk of cognitive decline in later life.

The WHO has recommended including weight-bearing activities in the school curriculum, as it can help teenagers develop stronger bones, which will lessen their risk of osteoporosis and fractures in the future.

The Social Benefits of Physical Extracurriculum for Teens

Aside from the obvious health advantages, extracurricular activities provide vital chances for children to engage socially, acquire skills, and grow personally. Partaking in club memberships, sports teams, and artistic efforts helps kids explore their interests, find their passions, and gain important life skills. These activities help build a feeling of belonging and community in school settings by providing a variety of alternatives to accommodate different skills, encouraging inclusion, and creating companionship.

Participating in social, mental, and physical extracurricular activities can also help children improve their social skills, self-esteem, and academic performance. This demonstrates the importance of providing our children with numerous opportunities to participate in activities outside traditional classroom settings. We need to prioritize extracurricular activities so that our teens can receive a well-rounded education that is more than simply studying.

Understanding Racial Disparities: Why Black Teens Face Challenges in Nutrition and Co-Curricular Activities in School

Despite attempts to encourage diversity, gaps in nutrition and access to extracurricular activities persist, particularly in Black-majority schools. The primary causes for these discrepancies include:

Socioeconomic Disparities

Socioeconomic disparities make it difficult for teenagers to participate in extracurricular activities and eat healthily. Many Black families struggle financially, making it difficult to feed their children well or pay extra for various extracurricular activities. Some of our teenagers also struggle to balance attending sports competitions and working part-time to augment their family’s meager income.

Cultural Relevance and Representation

Historically, school scheduling, food options, and after-school activities have prioritized the convenience of white students above other cultural groups. This marginalization causes minorities to feel left behind and neglected. Black teens typically feel detached from school events as they can’t relate to them, resulting in low participation rates.

Structural Inequities in School Systems

The prevalence of structural faults in educational institutions, such as personnel, resources, and funds disparities, have made it difficult for our teens to engage fully. Schools with mostly Black populations often receive less funding and aid than those serving wealthier, predominantly white communities. As a result, these schools sometimes struggle to provide complete nutrition programs or a diverse range of extracurricular activities, restricting Black students’ opportunities for holistic development.

Schools must take proactive initiatives to overcome a variety of impediments to student involvement, including racism, social exclusion, funding imbalances, and structural injustices within the educational system. By aggressively engaging these problems, learning institutions can create enabling environments where all kids can fully engage and succeed in classroom learning while having access to improved nutrition and extracurricular activities. This could entail establishing inclusive teaching techniques, giving resources and assistance to underprivileged students, encouraging diversity and acceptance, and pushing for institutional reforms that enable equal access to holistic education for everyone.

Further Reading

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm
  2. https://news.osu

About the author

Geoffrey Andaria Shivayanga

Geoffrey Andaria Shivayanga, CEO of Andaria Virtual Solutions, excels in English language proficiency, meticulously crafting online content for resonance and effective conversion. With a background as an English and journalism teacher and degrees from Pwani University and the University of Nairobi, he demonstrates a commitment to language and communication. Holding diplomas and certificates in law, economics, mental health, psychiatry, real estate development, and graphics design, Geoffrey's multifaceted expertise contributes to his role as a web writer and researcher. Guided by a belief in transforming information into compelling narratives, he provides comprehensive insights across diverse topics, showcasing unwavering commitment to excellence.

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