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Why Teach Health and Fitness in Your Homeschool

Most states require high school courses in Personal Fitness and Nutrition, which are essential for lifelong wellness. We’ve all wondered if we will ever apply certain courses in the real world and doubted the usefulness of some subjects. The truth is, regardless of what field or career we enter, a well-rounded education, which includes multiple subjects, helps us live a more full and fruitful life. One of those areas is our personal health.

Homeschooling and Family Health

When I homeschooled my three children, who have all graduated and fully entered their careers, I enjoyed that much of what they learned benefitted our entire household. For this reason, I designed high school health courses for Homeschool Connections. They not only benefit the students but also provide activities to encourage others in the family to participate. Learning how to assess our own fitness and nutrition habits, as well as understanding the exercise prescription and healthy eating choices, provides skills that serve all individuals for a lifetime..

Biblical Perspective on Health

There are multiple inferences to a healthy lifestyle in the Bible, including physical health as a blessing, healing, proper care of our bodies, and overall physical and mental well-being. One of my favorite bible verses regarding nutrition is “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). We also are called to be in good health: “Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul” (3 John 1:2). We should invest in our health not only for the positive impact it has on our own lives but the improved ability for us to impact God’s kingdom on earth during our lifetime.

High School Health, Part I: Personal Fitness

My Homeschool Connections course, High School Health, Part I: Personal Fitness, covers multiple topics, including making healthy lifestyle choices and embracing physical activity through a complete exercise program that improves aerobic fitness, muscular fitness, flexibility, and functional fitness. It also meets the CDC’s exercise guidelines. Through a series of physical fitness assessments, students can evaluate their baseline fitness levels and set appropriate exercise goals. One can see how useful this is as a lifetime skill! It is also important to gain skills regarding complementary aspects of physical fitness, including sleep, recovery, and nutrition for overall well-being.

High School Health, Part II: Personal Nutrition

The counterpart course is High School Health, Part II: Personal Nutrition. This course covers recommended dietary guidelines, reading nutrition labels, carbohydrates as fuel for our brains and bodies, dietary fats, protein, micronutrients, hydration, and alcohol. When learning about nutrition, it’s important to understand what to eat, not only for a healthy heart and body but also to provide the necessary energy and nutrients to fuel our daily work.

The Synergy of Fitness and Nutrition

Fitness and nutrition go hand-in-hand. Both are important individually, but together they are more effective. They play a complementary role in which one without the other can prove to be less fruitful than intended. Exercise without good nutrition can lead to a host of issues. Let’s examine a few examples of this crossover:

  1. Low Energy Availability (LEA) Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDs): Both represent a state in which the body does not have enough energy to maintain optimal health and participation in sport. This lack of fuel can keep us from enjoying physical activity or can shorten the duration of activity.
  2. Bone Health: Impact exercises typically help build bone mass but also require bone-building nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.
  3. Muscle Strength: Exercising our muscles can lead to strength gains and lean body mass but must be supported by sufficient intake of quality protein foods such as legumes, lean meats, vegetables, and dairy.

Benefits of Learning Fitness and Nutrition Basics

Learning fitness and nutrition basics can motivate positive lifestyle choices, benefiting individuals and those around them. What’s to gain by implementing this type of knowledge and application? Improved strength, endurance, stamina, energy, mood, sleep, mental health, focus, and more.

Decades of scientific research support the effectiveness of regular physical activity and nutrition in preventing chronic diseases and premature death.  Research also shows that a healthy lifestyle can reduce medical costs. According to research conducted at Newcastle University (2021): “We found that adults who maintained or increased their physical activity from adolescence throughout adulthood had lower average annual healthcare costs than adults who were consistently inactive over time – between [$824 and $1,874] per year. This is around 10% to 22% lower than those who were less active or inactive.”

Overcoming Barriers to Fitness and Nutrition

Understanding health “barriers,” both real and perceived, is important. Common barriers include time, money, knowledge, cost, fear of injury, and lack of resources. Learning not only to identify real vs. perceived barriers, as well as strategies to overcome those barriers, are important skills gained during young adulthood.

Many people mistakenly believe that they need equipment, a gym, and excess time to get proper exercise. A personal fitness course can help devise strategies that overcome these barriers. A common misconception regarding nutrition is the high cost of healthy foods. Fresh food from the grocery store, prepared at home, is often cheaper than packaged foods and restaurant meals. Strategies for assembling well-rounded meals that are high in nutrients and fiber are skills that last a lifetime.

Conclusion

At this point, I hope you are convinced of the importance of learning about fitness and nutrition before adulthood. Tackling these topics as a family can be beneficial and supportive to all those involved and can lead to increased family recreation time as well. Taking care of our bodies and living an energetic life can be an act of worship and gratefulness to our Lord. Let us participate in healthy living as a “thank you” for our lives and the opportunities we have to fulfill our calling.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Join me and other homeschooling parents at our Homeschool Connections Community or our Facebook group to continue the discussion!

NOTE: Homeschool Connections offers a variety of online courses, including Dr. Berend’s health and fitness courses. You can check them out here: Course Finder. 

Resources to help you in your Catholic homeschool…

Catholic Homeschool Classes Online

Homeschooling Saints Podcast

Good Counsel Careers

The Catholic Homeschool Conference

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