Tuesday, March 8, 2016

10 Apps, Sites, and Lessons for Promoting Health and Fitness

In all of my Best of the Web presentations I try to present resources for a wide variety of classroom settings and subject areas. Health and physical education resources are always included because of my personal interest in the field as well as its importance in giving students lifelong skills. Here are ten of my favorite resources for teaching and promoting health and fitness in schools.

One of the simple improvements that I made to my diet last year was cutting out sugar from my morning coffee (I never used cream). The CDC's Rethink Your Drink helped me understand how many extra calories I was taking in through sugar. Rethink Your Drink provides a chart of sugar content and calories found in popular beverages. The PDF also contains a chart of suggested alternatives to drinking sugary beverages. In addition to the charts Rethink Your Drink provides suggestions on ways to cut sugar calories safely while not sacrificing nutrients.

How Sugar Affects the Brain is a TED-Ed lesson through which students learn why sugary foods and beverages can become addictive and how the human body processes sugar. The video is embedded below.

Untamed Science offers a similar video lesson in which we learn why so many of us crave sugar and sweet things. The video is embedded below.

Sugar Stacks is a good website for understanding how much sugar is in the food and beverages that we consume. Sugar Stacks lists popular food and beverage items in ten categories. Every item is pictured with a stack of sugar cubes. Each sugar cube represents four grams of sugar. This is a great way to see just how much sugar you really consume in your favorite snack or beverage.

Chew or Die is a free iPad, iPhone, and Android app that encourages people to try new healthy foods. The free app contains a series of healthy food challenges. The challenges include things like removing bread and potato-based starches with rice, trying a new vegetable, removing meat from your diet for a week, and sneaking more fiber into your diet. When you try a challenge take a picture of the food that you try and upload it to Chew or Die to challenge your friends to match your healthy choice. Click here for the iOS version. Click here for the Android version.

Sworkit Kids a free iOS and Android app designed to get kids moving with short, fun exercises. The app features workouts of five to thirty minutes in length (you pick the length). Each workout has a mix of fun exercises like diagonal hopping, crab walking, and hopping on one foot. You can choose exercises or let the app create a sequence of exercises for you.

Space Chef is a free iPad app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The purpose of the app is to introduce students to healthy foods and recipes that they may not have ever tried or even heard about. Space Chef features a fast-paced game in which students have to quickly grab the ingredients for a recipe. The ingredients scroll past them in three streams or flight paths. Students are shown a recipe at the top of the screen and they must grab the appropriate ingredients as they stream across the screen.

Monster Heart Medic is another free iOS and Android app from the Lawrence Hall of Science. The app is designed to help students in elementary and middle school understand how the cardiovascular system is affected by diet and exercise. The app features a character named Ragnar that students must diagnose then help develop a plan to live a healthier life. Sabba Quidwai wrote an extensive review of the app here.  

Arthur Family Health is a free resource from PBS Kids. Arthur Family Health is designed to help parents, teachers, and students learn about common health challenges children face. Through videos, games (online and offline), and data sheets visitors to Arthur Family Health can learn about asthma, allergies, nutrition, fitness, and resilience (dealing with tragedies).

Walking, running, and biking are three simple ways to get regular exercise. I live in a rural area that doesn't have many sidewalks or even wide shoulders on the road so it can be hard to find safe places for those activities. If you live in a similar area, you might also hear the same complaint from students and parents. To help them find safe routes you could create walking, running, and biking routes in Google Maps. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to do that.