Schools Should Offer More Exercise Opportunities
> 8/16/2006 10:02:19 AM

According to a statement in the latest journal of the American Heart Association, American schools do not devote enough time to physical education and related activities. Lead author Russell R. Pate, Ph.D. says that, since children spend a large portion of their day in school, educators hold some responsibility for shaping their lifestyles. Physical education classes that often meet only once a week are not sufficient, and the report recommends at least 30 minutes of exercise a day for elementary school kids and 45 minutes for those in middle and high school.

The largest current issue in education is improving test scores, but officials at the AHA warn the country's educators not to neglect physical health in order to focus more exclusively on academic achievement. The fact that one in three children six and older are overweight should be ample evidence for the necessity of reform. In order to counteract the failing health of our children, schools may have to resort to non-traditional exercise programs. While many kids find pleasure and company in team sports, many also choose not to participate due to other preferences or social insecurities. Pate advises schools to investigate options like after-school exercise clubs, community groups or intramural sports.

Of course, children also need encouragement at home in order to improve their overall health, and parents who lead by example will better influence their children. For those interested, the AHA offers practical guidelines for making exercise a part of daily life. Pate, himself a distance runner, advises those in education that:

Schools shouldn't have to make an "either/or" choice between academics and physical education..."A balanced academic program should include PE and should also incorporate strategies to increase physical activity throughout the school day," he said. "Physical activity shouldn't stop at PE class."

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