Schools should provide more than gym for physical activity

May 23, 2013 at 1:06 PM
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HOUSTON, May 23 (UPI) -- U.S. experts recommend U.S. schools be responsible for helping pupils engage in at least 60 minutes of vigorous or moderate intensity activity each school day.

Harold W. Kohl III, professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at The University of Texas School of Public Health, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said currently more than half of U.S. youth meet current evidence-based guidelines of at least an hour of vigorous or moderate intensity physical activity daily.

"Because children are in school for nearly half of their waking hours, the committee recommends a Whole-of-School approach to strengthening physical activity in schools," Kohl said in a statement.

"The approach would target physical education, active commuting, before and after-school activities, sports and other opportunities to help children meet the 60 minutes per day of vigorous or moderate intensity physical activity."

Kohl, who chaired the committee that wrote the report for the Institute of Medicine, said the Whole-of-School approach would encourage activities such as walking or riding a bike to school while discouraging inactivity.

Recess, lunch breaks and frequent classroom breaks should be included and not taken away as punishment, the report said.

Although many state laws require some physical education, the report urged the U.S. Department of Education to include physical education as a core subject.

"Physical activity is so central to children's health, development and learning schools should naturally be involved with physical activity for students," Kohl said. "Research shows physical activity helps children think faster, improves their cognitive performance and helps them reach their academic potential."

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