Let s get physical to fight obesity

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The results of a new nationwide survey reveal conditions that aren t favorable to improving the health of overweight children. This report, published in The Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that more than half of the country s states and districts didn t require regular physical education classes in their elementary schools. Daily recess, another opportunity for kids to get up and move around, was also rarely mandatory.

To get a sense of physical education in the nation s schools, researchers, led by a professor of health policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago, surveyed principals at about 1,800 elementary schools in 47 states during the 2006 through 2009 school years. To their dismay (and ours), the researchers found that less than half the states had any laws on PE classes and only eight states suggested or required that students get daily recess. The American Heart Association recommends two and a half hours of PE per week and 20 minutes of recess every day. The research team found that schools were more than twice as likely to meet these PE recommendations if they were in states or districts that required it.

And in addition to the physical benefits of increased activity which doctors recommend as a way to curtail the growing rate of childhood obesity there may be academic benefits as well. Lead author Dr. Sandy Slater points to studies linking more physical activity to better cognitive skills and improved concentration in the classroom.

This decrease in time dedicated to physical activity at school is clearly a negative trend, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. We have to encourage kids to take some time away from their various screens and keyboards, and get up and move around.