A weighty issue…


Last week there was a call from prominent Australian doctor for schools to include students’ Body Mass Index (BMI) scores on their report cards.


The idea behind this is to “stimulate discussion” between parents, teachers and – presumably – kids about their health and in particular, their weight.


I understand why some people my think this is a good idea, but I have my reservations.

1. The BMI is not an exact science. In fact there have been some studies that show that among people with coronary artery disease, those patients classified by the BMI has being in the healthy weight range were at a HIGHER risk of death than those classified as being overweight.


2. It has the potential to harm one’s self esteem. Speaking from experience, when I emigrated to Australia, I had to undergo a medical examination, part of which was a BMI test. Measuring 1.91m and weighing around 115kg, they BMI tells me (and doctors) that I am obese. As a PE teacher, and someone who has always tried to stay fit, it actually affected me a little to be told I was obese. Imagine what that might do to a child’s confidence.


3. Scoring does little to improve things. Using maths as an example – no-one ever improved their maths ability because of a grade on a piece of paper. They improved because of hard work. Rather than spending the time “grading” kids using a measure that was not designed for kids in the first place, schools could be doing more activity.


As a trained PE teacher I’ve worked in this space for 15 years. Far and away the best strategy for getting kids active is to shift the focus away from sports and competition as this alienates so many, and often turns kids off physical activity. Instead we should increase the time kids’ heart-rates are elevated. As well as changing the focus of PDHPE lessons to incorporate more “recreational” type activities we can also be done by incorporating physical activity into other subject areas other than PDHPE.

I touched on this in a post for Generation Next earlier this year.


Author: Dan Haesler, he is a teacher, writer and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars He writes for the Sydney Morning Herald and blogs at http://danhaesler.com/ and tweets at @danhaesler