The Push for Increased Physical Education

July 22, 2013

Key strategies for physical activity in schools, from Active Living Research.

by Cynthia Libby, HSC Intern

How many of you can remember your physical education classes in grammar school or high school? For many of us, this was the class that everyone looked forward to. It was a nice break in the day, a chance to run around and shed some energy. Despite popular perception, physical education is much more than a respite from schoolwork. Research shows that kids who move throughout the school day aren’t just healthier, they also tend to do better academically, behave better in class and miss fewer days of school. The staff of Active Living Research have recently compiled a resource kit that can provide valuable information about the effects and benefits of physical education.

More than 23 million children–one-third of American children and teens–are overweight or obese. This epidemic is linked to an increased risk of disease later in life. This is why it is important to take action in any way you can, as soon as you can. Lack of physical education is a key contributor to the obesity epidemic. Some key strategies:

  • For starters, the Surgeon General recommends that children engage in 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week. One way to provide 40 percent of the recommended amount of physical activity per day is through recess. Children love to go outside and play during school, and providing them with a few balls or jump ropes to encourage activity can make a huge impact. Adding a few play items has been shown to increase the number of children who are physically active on playgrounds by 15 percent. In addition to recess before lunch, multiple physical activity breaks throughout the academic day have been linked to improved classroom behavior and attentiveness. All it takes is ten minute breaks periodically throughout the day to overcome these major barriers to learning!
  • Outside of the classroom, there are plenty of ways for schools to promote and encourage physical activity. Extracurricular physical activities such as intramural sports or clubs are a great way for kids to stay active. Not only will they be getting their daily physical activity recommendation, but studies have shown that an increased amount of physical activity supports an increase in self-esteem and reduces anxiety and stress in younger people.
  • Schools can also strive to provide safe routes for transportation by foot or bike to and from school for the neighboring communities. This is a good way for students to be physically and socially active before and after school.

Even the smallest changes to a child’s day can improve health, so let’s continue to encourage young people to stay active! By simply implementing as many of these tips as possible, we can work together to support the next generation of healthy children.