1 February 2008

Dr David’s Tips for Raising Healthy Kids

We have the power to choose the shape of things to come
Here’s how Patty Nolan made a difference. Patty works at Warren Point Elementary School in Fair Lawn New Jersey. Noticing a rapid increase in the number of overweight kids, she launched a novel health and fitness program along with school nurse Kathy Szabo. Since the program began in 2003, it has been incorporated into the curriculum of every elementary school in the district and has won a state award. Here’s Patty’s inspirational story.


‘My main focus was to get the community moving. The plan we came up with had three different layers. First find activities most kids would like. Second get parents involved – kids are more likely to be active if they see their parents moving. Third put together a large event that involved the whole community. I started by getting the kids involved at lunchtime. Every lunch period, every day of the week, a different fitness activity takes place.

  • On Moving Mondays, I run laps around school grounds with the kids cheering them on. The math teachers encourage children to log their miles and add up their results.
  • Tournament Tuesdays have competitive games between teams; 85% of the students participate, and final winners earn awards at lunch.
  • On Walkin’ & Wheelin’ Wednesdays, kids and parents walk, rollerblade or bike to school. Once kids do this 15 times, they get on the health and fitness honor roll.
  • On thirsty Thursdays, everyone brings a water bottle to school and learns the benefits of staying hydrated.
  • On Fat-free Fridays, healthy eating is encouraged, and the school doesn’t sell ice-cream or unhealthy snacks during lunch.
Since the program started the kids have been really excited about competing in tournaments, running laps and promoting healthy eating. Just about every student in the school has participated. And with the parents signing permission slips, they’re aware of the revolution going on in the lunch hour. The first year we also held a fitness expo for the school community. Another event that has continued annually is the run/walk involving families through the community.

Year after year the response to the program has been overwhelmingly great. It’s rewarding to hear the comments from the kids who ask me if they can still run on Mondays even if it is raining. Parents tell me they are walking more, watching what they eat and losing weight. The kids are starting to eat better, to get more exercise, and to do it as a family.’

Dr David Ludwig

– Dr David Ludwig is Director of the Optimal Weight for Life (OWL) program at Children’s Hospital Boston and author of Ending the Food Fight