According to the Centers for Disease (CDC), physical inactivity has contributed to the 100% increase in the prevalence of childhood obesity in the U.S. since 1980
(CDC, 2003). It does not come as a surprise when recess is an entity no longer scheduled daily, and Physical Education classes are cut in schools. Also, the current economic state has to lead to decreased extra-curricular activities and increased costs to participate. Sports in schools are no longer a free for all, where parents of children are being asked to pay a fee to support the cost of uniforms, maintenance of fields, referees, etc. The increase of sedentary behaviors, pressure to succeed, and the overabundance of technology have played a significant role in children's overall well-being. Childhood obesity has been correlated with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV criteria for Major Depressive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Bulimia Nervosa (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 2006).
Furthermore, children classified as overweight are also targets for bullying, have lower self-esteem, and are at risk for increased medical problems. As a clinician in the hospital setting, it is hard to see children being prescribed multiple medications as an "instant" fix for the emotional instability they are currently facing. The challenge was determining an effective intervention of physical activity that could be applied consistently to a group therapy setting. It was not until I attended the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance convention in San Diego that I was introduced to jump roping benefits. I have since collaborated with Liz Way of jumprope.com on implementing a curriculum in the hospital.
Children admitted to the partial hospital program attend four hours of group therapy Monday through Friday. Every Wednesday, I spend one of the Clinical groups with a warm-up, various jump rope skills, and a cool down with processing. They also created a playlist of songs that were incorporated into the curriculum. Within a couple of weeks, the pre-adolescents were asked to use a jump rope as a coping skill when feeling angry, anxious, or hyperactive. Children who were once intimidated to participate in play activities were taking risks and stepping out of their comfort zone with encouragement from their peers. They were observed challenging each other in coming up with more difficult skills in both individual jump rope and teams for long rope jumping. Per the group's report, children feeling calmer, happier, and were more alert at the end of a session.
I am currently implementing jump roping groups within local middle schools to empower youth to take action towards a healthier mind while having fun. A jump rope is a simple mechanism to get kids moving that is cost-effective and easy to use. The American Obesity Association describes today's youth as the most inactive generation in history (AOA, 2003). If higher levels of activity are promoted early in life, the more likely children will be to maintain healthy habits through adulthood.