Thursday, January 13, 2011

Are School Exercise Programs Shortchanging Kids?

Kids do a lot of sitting. Between resting in a chair at school seven hours a day - and watching television when they get home, it’s not surprising that kids are overweight and develop health problems at a younger age. Even school exercise programs fall short in helping kids get the benefits of exercise.

Are Kids Exercising at School?

A report published by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development points out that kids only get around 25 minutes per week of vigorous exercise as part of most school exercise programs. This is woefully short of the four to seven hours per week most experts recommend.

The Benefits of Exercise for Children

How important is exercise for kids? A recent study carried out in Germany looked at the benefits of exercise for children. They divided sixth grade kids into two groups. One group took part in a daily school exercise program, while the second group participated only in school sports activities, which amounted to about two hours of exercise per week. They tested the physical fitness level of the kids before and after the three year study through treadmill exercise testing, blood work and a physical exam.

Did the kids who exercised at school experience benefits? The children who took part in a daily school exercise program had lower blood pressures at the end of the study than the control group, and they had better cardiovascular fitness, which could mean a lower risk of heart disease later in life.

The benefits of exercise for children are well described. Not only does it help with weight control and heart health, it relieves stress, boosts confidence and reduces the risk of health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and type 2 diabetes later in life. Unfortunately, most school exercise programs aren’t giving children the amount and intensity of exercise they need for health.

For example, according to this survey, just under 6% of kids had physical education five times a week. Most had it only two times a week. Sadly, during that time, they only engaged in, on average, just under five minutes of vigorous exercise and about 12 minutes of moderate exercise.

Kids aren’t exercising at school enough, so it’s important for parents to motivate kids to stay active at home. Limit kid’s television and computer time and send them outdoors to play - or take them to a playground for an hour when they get home from school. Get them involved in a sport they can participate in most days. Give them the task of taking the dog for a brisk walk every afternoon. Find ways to help them get at least thirty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day.

Kids Exercising at School: The Bottom Line?

Since schools aren’t doing their job of keeping kids active, parents need to take up the slack. Don’t put your child at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease, because he’s too sedentary. Keep your child moving.


Medical News Today. “Daily School Exercise Decreases Blood Pressure in School Children”

National Institute of Health News Release. “Study Suggests Schools Lacking in Exercise Programs for Children”

No comments: