Gym class rules in and out of school

2013June25_ChildrensFitness_ADo you know how much time your child is spending in physical education classes at school. A recent Cornell University study about to be published shows a link between PE sessions in the US and obesity rates amongst youngsters. This is one of the few pieces of research looking at in-school fitness and the weight and Body Mass Index of children. Is it time parents really took a look at what fitness guidance they can provide for their children when school is out for summer too?

Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are that elementary schoolchildren should be spending more time in PE classes. It’s certainly an idea that seems to be backed up by latest research due to be published in the Journal of Health Economics. The study states that extra PE time can lower BMI and reduce obesity.

What an hour can do

The Cornell University study findings reveal that an extra 60 minutes of PE at school for elementary kids can lead to a BMI reduction of 0.5 in children, with boys showing a significantly bigger decrease of 0.9. In essence, this slims down the chances of childhood obesity by nearly 5%. With the Surgeon General advising schools offer 150 minutes of exercise activities a week, the reality is that only a small percentage of schools do.

Boys benefit the most

The study also suggested that boys who exercised at school for this extra hour would see obesity rates fall to a greater extent than girls. A reason for this, which is highlighted by the researchers, is the possibility that for boys the PE classes act as a supplement to their other activities, whereas for girls the extra PE time might replace their activities.

School is for learning!

Some parents may argue that school is where kids go to learn, not to workout, and that fitness is the responsibility of the parents outside of the school gates. Increased gym class time might worry parents that academic subjects may suffer as a results. Not so, according to the Cornell study, which found that there was evidence of a crowding out of academic courses, or a negative impact on academic achievement, such as test scores when PE was lowered.

Promoting activities at school

What is clear is that parents, certainly in the US, may not be able to rely on their offspring springing into enough action whilst at school. With gym class seeming to have such a positive consequence on youngsters, it could be worth parents finding out more about the activities their children do at school. Showing an interest and encouraging kids to get involved in sports and activities at school from an early age positively reinforces the message that there is space in education for physical exercise.

And outside!

Parents need to take responsibility for what their kids get up to once school is closed for the day, the week, as well as the holidays. Getting organized, signing youngsters up for activities at a fitness facility, or some type of sport or activity program, is worth planning. This might prove more fruitful than simply expecting young people to run around under their own volition.

Input from educators and parents alike is needed and an understanding that the gym class rules in and out of school. Do you want ideas for interesting activities for children? We can activate an action plan.

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