Give me an “H” for healthy 4-H youth

Many 4-H clubs are focused on fitness and the health of their youth.

Give me an “H” for healthy 4-H youth

Why are there 4-H baseball clubs, 4-H discus golf clubs and 4-H soccer clubs? With the dwindling of physical education requirements in schools, the electronic craze, which is causing more youth to be sedimentary, and with processed food so easily available, it only makes sense that 4-H takes the lead for more physical activity and nutrition education for our youth.

According to the Center of Disease Control and Prevention, the percentage of children 6-11 years of age who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to 17 percent in 2012. Children are playing outside less, playing video games more, and families are too busy to eat a balanced meal together. 4-H can help to strengthen and educate our youth about the effects of obesity, sedimentary lifestyles and how it affects ones health. All this can be done through youth leadership.

The mission of Michigan 4-H Youth Development is to create non-formal, experiential, educational opportunities designed to connect in-school learning with out-of-school time activities. 4-H has excellent curriculum like Spartan Performance, which helps inform our youth of healthy choices. Lessons include Nutrition 101 - What is Healthy Fuel, Athlete Performance Plate, Pre- and Post-Training Snacks, Energy Balance, Hydration, and Supplements and Healthy Drinks. 4-H empowers youth to take the lead and spread the healthy “H” to their peers.

Michigan’s requirements for physical education does not specify a certain amount of time or number of days in a week for elementary or middle/junior high school students. The only requirement for high school is 0.5 credit hours in health and 0.5 credit hours in physical education. In many communities around the state, 4-H has filled the role of educator to area youth on physical activity and nutrition. The leadership skills 4-H youth learn will strengthen communities and encourage a healthier lifestyle for all who participate.

So what makes a 4-H sports club different than a recreational sports club? 4-H sports clubs stress the educational component using curriculum like Spartan Performance or Jump into Food and Fitness (JIFF). These sports clubs may be set up as SPIN (Special Interest) clubs that come together for six to 10 weeks or may meet year-round and involve youth in many different physical activities throughout the year. With youth voice, the members have input in the activities planned. The leaders or coaches have completed a Michigan State University Extension Volunteer Selection Process and are committed to teaching life skills with 4-H guiding principles:

  1. Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.
  2. Youth are physically and emotionally safe.
  3. Youth are actively engaged in their own development.
  4. Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.
  5. Youth develop skills that help them succeed.
  6. Youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.
  7. Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.

Youth learn leadership skills to lead their 4-H sports clubs in area competitions or community events. Watching these youth build strong bodies, minds and leadership skills with confidence is enough reason to offer 4-H sports clubs in areas across the state.

4-H grows healthy youth. If you would like to learn more about 4-H Youth Development, visit MSU Extension’s Physical Activity and Healthy Youth websites, or contact me, leadership and civic engagement team member, at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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