One path to fitter kids: More P.E. at school

One path to fitter kids: more P.E. at school
Study finds that reinstating daily classes would fulfill 1/3rd of U.S. goals for kids' exercise.

(HealthDay News) —Remember the physical education component of children's education? Many schools have cut back on P.E. classes, but a new study finds that might be a mistake.

Researchers report that daily physical education classes would go a long way in helping children meet U.S. recommendations for .

The study, funded by the nonprofit Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that attending a P.E. class every day would increase kids' daily physical activity by about 23 minutes.

That might not seem like a big increase, but it would fulfill more than one-third of the total daily amount of exercise recommended by experts, the researchers said.

"This study shows that policy-makers have a lot of tools at their disposal to help kids be active," study lead author David Bassett, professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said in a foundation news release. "But it also shows that no change alone will be enough. Helping young people reach activity goals will require a combination of strategies."

The U.S. government's for Americans issued in 2008 recommend that young people be active for at least 60 minutes every day. Research published that year showed, however, only 42 percent of children between 6 and 11 years old and just 8 percent of teens met that requirement.

The researchers examined 85 studies that used objective assessments of physical activity to project how certain policy changes would affect the amount of exercise children get each day.

A total of nine different types of requirements in both schools and the community were analyzed. The researchers then estimated how many minutes of physical activity each policy would add to a child's day. Among their findings:

  • A daily P.E. requirement: 23 minutes
  • Offering classroom physical activity breaks: 19 minutes
  • Increasing walking or biking to school: 16 minutes
  • Renovating and installing new equipment in parks: 12 minutes
  • Adding after-school physical activity programs: 10 minutes
  • Boosting access to parks: 1 minute
The study authors pointed out that combining the daily P.E. requirement, short activity breaks during school hours and active commuting to school would add up to 58 minutes of for children.

The study was published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Explore further

To fight obesity, even babies should exercise

More information: The American Heart Association provides more information on children and physical activity.

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Jan 24, 2013
Physical education and daily activity are vital for the development of our children and preservation of health for our future generations to come. As a student of Physical Education Teacher Education at Illinois State University it is clear that my classmates and I have our hands full with the epidemic we have in front of us. Sedentary lifestyles, overweightness and obesity are all symptoms of the problem, but the real backbone to the issue is that we are not doing anything about our gruesome habits and lack of physical activity. Obesity has recently passed smoking as the top health threat in the United States. Obesity brings a plethora of additional issues including Asthma, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, orthopedic complication, psychosocial effects, sleep apnea and cholesterol, just to name a few. Overweightness and obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 20 years. Are the people who are trying to cut Physical Education unaware of these stats?

Jan 24, 2013
What I'm really trying to say here is that Physical Education is and should be considered as important as the rest of our core classes (Reading, math writing, science). As a nation we are pouring 147 billion dollars a year into this cause. If we are putting so much of our highly desired money into this issue, where are the results?! Basic skills in math and reading are taught everyday in school but there is a void of skills that are essential to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Only six states require K through 12 Physical Education. Are the other 44 states counting on our youth to achieve 60 minute of physical activity a day in their free time? I don't want to sound cynical... but this is America, home of the unimaginable portions and limited physical fitness. That to me sounds like a recipe for fat disaster. If you take one thing away from this comment, remember "you are not fully education until you are physically educated".

Jan 26, 2013
You are correct about the need for physical activity HOWEVER P.E. is NOT an adequate or appropriate form of Physical Education! PE as is a thinly disguised form of pre-training for military service. Real Physical Education would de-emphasize competition and eliminate all ritualized forms of warfare such as Football. Forms of Physical Education that are good for individuals and society will include yoga, dance, physical awareness , Alexander Technique & postural education together with creative games that emphasize cooperation and include information about how to live a happy, healthy & fulfilled life as a mature and aging adult. Adults need to know how to maintain structural and postural integrity.

Our culture needs to mature beyond the level of preparing our children for warfare and competition.

Jan 27, 2013
de-emphasize competition and eliminate all ritualized forms of warfare such as Football

Leopard. Spots. Change.

Humans are wired for competition, trying to deny it is not productive. Aside from sports, much of the rest of what goes on in school also has competitive attributes. Our built-in affinity for competition is used in the education process to make education more effective. Eliminating competition makes motivation a little dicey.

Warfare is a type of competition. Competition is not a type of warfare.

I agree with you, though, that P.E. should be way more than just football.

Jan 28, 2013
Humans are also wired for cooperation. Replace competition with cooperation. When cooperation is the highest good, competition will fade to the minority position that is most appropriate for it.

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