We’re a fat nation, and more reports all the time confirm that Americans today are overweight and out of shape. The American Heart Association today (Monday) released recommendations for putting the “physical” back into “education,” adding hours of gym class and lots of other activity to the routine of kids in kindergarten through high school and beyond.
Doctor Mary Thomas is a professor of Health & Human Performance at Iowa State University and she says schools should help do something about it. Thomas says there’s a dramatic increase in not only obesity but also what used to be considered “adult” diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease. She says they’ve gone way up in the last twenty years, just as the same time period saw a big cut in the physical activity of kids.
Thomas says “There’s a wonderful new study that actually shows that for every few minutes of physical education that’s added into a school district, the level of obesity actually drops.” The Heart Association’s recommendations are in two parts — organized physical education classes, and other activity for students during school hours and outside the schoolday.
Physical education, she says, teaches kids “the knowledge, skills and behaviors necessary to be physically active,” and then there are the opportunities to let them put that knowledge to work. Thomas says in school those can include recess in grade school, and after school intramurals or inter-scholastic sports. She says it’s not only boring, it’s unhealthy for kids to sit still at a desk all day, and teachers should find ways to have students be “up and moving” in the classroom every hour to hour and-a-half during the day, depending on their age.