Healthy Eating and Physical Activity

Overweight and obesity have greatly increased during recent decades. Contributing factors include physical inactivity, excessive food consumption, and unhealthy food choices. According to the State of Obesity report, 26.3% of adults; 15.1% of 2-4 year olds and 15.5% of 10 -17 year olds in New Hampshire are obese. Furthermore statewide data shows 71.5% of adults have inadequate fruit and vegetable intake and a considerable percentage of New Hampshire teens reported consuming fruits (36.8%) and vegetables (31.8%) less than once a day. Schools are making improvements in ways to get children to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.

Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease. It also increases the risk of stroke and  other major cardiovascular risk factors such as obesity, high blood pressure, low HDL ("good") cholesterol and diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day. Schools can provide opportunities to increase physical activity through-out the day.  A great way to get students moving is to incorporate fitness breaks into the school day. These fitness breaks only take a few minutes and are very beneficial for your students. The Action for Healthy Kids website has lots of resources on ways to incorporate fitness into the school day.   School staff can benefit from fitness breaks as well.

  1. There are many resources that exist in your community for promoting physical activity and healthy eating. Learn about these resources.
  • Are there parks or woods nearby that you can walk as part of a lesson?
  • Are there community centers such as YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs that you can work with to coordinate after school activities?
  • Can you use community trails during breaks or recess?
  • Are there apple orchards or pick your own farms nearby that you can visit? Check out this website to find one near you. 
  • Are there nutrition experts from your food service department or in your community that can provide presentations and classroom lessons for students and families?
  • Do you have a local 4-H club or Cooperative Extension Service that could visit your school? Find your Extension office here.
  • Are there grocery stores that do store tours?
  1. Collaborate with your local health agencies and law enforcement agencies to create “walk to school” events or “walking school busses” to encourage children and parents to walk to school.
  • If necessary, start by conducting a “walkability assessment” of the area around your school to identify unsafe crossing, broken sidewalks and other environmental factors that deter walking. The National Highway traffic safety Administration offers a “walkability checklist” that you can use. A “Walk to School Day” occurs every October.
  • Review school policies to see if your school allows and encourages students to walk or bike to school.
  1. There are many ways to promote physical activity and healthy eating in your classroom.
  • Add physical activity into your classroom. Playworks Game Library- Explore hundreds of games by group size, available space and equipment, appropriate ages, and developmental skills. Games are designed to keep all kids playing. You will see lots of games where everyone is “it”, ground-rules that keep games manageable for recess supervisors, skill-building variations on students’ favorite sports, and other adaptations that make games fun and inclusive for everyone. Great activity for indoor recess or healthy celebrations.
  •  Let's Move Active Schools initiative in West Virginia created a movement guide with physical activities for grades K-2, 3-5 and 6-8.
  • Complete set of Energizers- Created by Eat Smart Move More initiative in North Carolina
  • Go Noodle- Go Noodle makes movement and mindfulness an integral part of the school day.
  • Display posters and signs that promote healthy eating- Team Nutrition has a variety of free posters. 
  • Offer taste testing that give students opportunities to try healthy foods. Encourage your school’s food service to incorporate popular choices into the school menu. Offering taste tests of healthy school menu items helps to promote these items in the lunch line.
  • Plan a fun and interactive family event around nutrition education. Take advantage of events like parent-teacher conferences, where you have built it audience, to provide healthy snacks and nutrition tips.
  • Do not use physical activity as a punishment-do not punish students by requiring them to participate in or by withdrawing opportunities for physical activity i.e. do not punish students by requiring them to do push-ups or run laps. Do not exclude students from physical education class or recess. More information can be found here.
  • Incorporate movement into lessons, if teaching about verbs, have students act out verb by moving around the classroom.
  • Incorporate nutrition and physical activity concepts into lessons, such as discussing energy balance in science class.
  • Collect healthy recipes from families in the school and create school cookbook, which can be sold as a fundraiser in the community.
  • Have a pitcher of water available in the classroom or find funding for water bottle and filling stations.
  • Get involved with the Farm to School initiative.
  • Plant a school garden
  • Promote healthy foods for celebrations
  • For elementary school teachers, engage with students at recess instead of watching. Jumping rope is great exercise and fun as well!  
  • Be a healthy role model. Model healthy behaviors to students by being active and consuming healthy foods and beverages. Get involved in your school’s employee wellness programs or consider starting one.  Join your school’s Wellness Committee.


Healthy Living Field Specialist
Extension Field Specialist, Health & Well-Being
Phone: (603) 255-3611 ext. 812
Office: UNH Cooperative Extension, Taylor Hall, Durham, NH 03824