By: Andrew Jaglall

Obesity: What it is & How it Effects Your Classroom

Obesity is an accumulation of fatty tissue in the body due to excess food storage. When someone consumes more than their body will use for energy, the excess energy will be stored as fat and accumulate in the body. To be classified as an obese person, a male’s body fat must exceed 25% and a female’s body fat must exceed 30% (that is, 30% or more of a females body weight is pure fat) (Maknet Corporation, 2000). Obesity has a variety of negative health effects and is a potentially deadly issue if ignored and neglected.  As teachers, there are a variety of things that we need to know as well as activities we can create in order to help reverse this epidemic.

How Does Obesity Affect Your Health?

Obesity has a plethora of negative health effects on the human body. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma are just some of the many common complications that can arise from being overweight. 

Diabetes: A condition where the body either is not producing enough insulin or the body is not able to use the insulin properly. The body needs insulin to change the sugar from food into energy (Health Canada, 2008). Having diabetes can lead to many different diseases including a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and/or blindness (Carlson, 2005)

High blood pressure: Acts as a stress on the heart, making it have to pump harder, and results in the arteries having to carry moving blood under greater pressure. This can put a strain on the heart and ultimately lead to a heart attack, stroke, or heart disease (The Nemours Foundation, 2007).

Asthma: Defined as a “chronic inflammatory disease of the airway” (The Nemours Foundation, 2007). Symptoms of asthma include shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, coughing, and wheezing (Asthma Society of Canada, 2009).

Obesity: Teen Statistics

According to a study conducted by Statistics Canada in 2004, 21% of children ages 2-5 were classified as overweight or obese. For children ages 6-11, 26% were overweight or obese, and 29% of children ages 12-17 were overweight/obese. The age group 12-17 has had an alarming increase over the last 25 years, more than doubling from 14% in 1979, to 29% in 2004 (Shields, 2008).


(Shields, 2008)

Obesity’s Effect in Your Classroom         

Teachers need to be aware of the overwhelming weight epidemic that is affecting a huge amount of adolescents. According to a study conducted by Jeffrey Schwimmer, M.D., of the University of California San Diego, obese children missed four days of school per month, compared to less than a day for children of average weight. Overweight adolescents may not be able to participate in all physical activities, and as a result feel left out (Psychology Today, 2003). As a teacher, it is important to know that a particular student in a classroom may not be handing in assignments on time or may miss numerous school days simply because they feel unaccepted when they come to school. This also contributes to a lack of motivation.

Teachers need to be educated on exactly what obesity is, and in turn pass on that information to their classroom. In order to provide the best learning experience possible to every student, we need to educate children on how to eat healthy and develop a healthy lifestyle. Some recommendations could include annual weight checks that are reported to students, training on choosing and preparing healthy foods, lessons in food labelling, and higher targets for physical activity throughout the school day (BBC News, 2004). As we ourselves are important role models to our students, we need to be careful and make proper eating choices while in the classroom. This contributes to the “monkey see monkey do” idea, where students will make choices based on what they see from their peers or authoritative figures. As teachers, eating healthy and offering healthy rewards in the classroom will model a positive healthy attitude for our students.

Teachers should constantly have activities that allow students to be involved and out of their desks. Bodily-kinaesthetic activities can help with obesity since they will no longer be just sitting for the eight hours that they’re at school. Incorporating various activities has other added benefits, as some students may learn better through those bodily-kinaesthetic activities. Research is currently being done on classrooms of the future to allow our students to help manage their weight and develop a higher education at the same time. A study currently being conducted by Dr. James Levine is looking at the option of completely removing desks from the classroom. Students have laptops and a laptop stand which is adjustable to their height. Early indications have shown that students have both managed their weight and have learned more effectively in this setting. The video below contains footage from the classroom where this study is being conducted (Santaniello, 2006).



Ultimately, teachers play an important role in keeping our children healthy. By being aware of the negative aspects of obesity, techniques that can be used in the classroom to educate students about the issue, and activities that can incorporate physical activity, we can keep our students engaged and encouraged in their education.




Asthma Society of Canada. (2009, March). What is Asthma? Retrieved March 2009, from Asthma Society of Canada: http://www.asthma.ca/adults/about/whatIsAsthma.php

BBC News. (2004, May 27). Schools Urged to Fight Obesity. Retrieved March 2009, from BBC News: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/3751305.stm

Carlson, B. (2005, September 12). Diabetes. Retrieved March 2009, from Hands on Health: http://www.handsonhealth-sc.org/page.php?id=1151

Health Canada. (2008, July 8). Diabetes and Conditions. Retrieved March 2009, from Health Canada: http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dc-ma/diabete/index-eng.php

Maknet Corporation. (2000, June 26). What is Obesity? Retrieved March 2009, from Obesity Canada: http://www.obesitycanada.com/what.php

Psychology Today. (2003, June). Psychology Today. Retrieved March 2009, from The Obesity-Depression Link: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/index.php?term=pto-2828.html&fromMod=popular_foodndiet

Santaniello, A. (2006, April 26). Classroom of the Future Fights Childhood Obesity . Retrieved March 2009, from WCCO: http://wcco.com/seenon/schools.education.future.2.357255.html

Shields, M. (2008, November 16). Overweight Canadian children and adolescents. Retrieved March 2009, from Statistics Canada: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/82-620-m/2005001/article/child-enfant/8061-eng.htm

The Nemours Foundation. (2007, April). When Being Overweight is a Health Problem. Retrieved March 2009, from KidsHealth: http://kidshealth.org/teen/food_fitness/dieting/obesity.html