The American Heart Association this week recommended that schools take the lead in fighting the epidemic of fat among schoolchildren. Doctor Kathy Thomas says there are two phases to fitness awareness in schools.
One is physical education, where the Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatrics recommend 150 minutes a week of P.E. in grade schools, and 225 minutes a week in grades through seven through twelve. She adds they’re calling for schools to offer gym class for all grades.
Thomas, a professor of Health & Human Performance at Iowa State University, says right now, students aren’t getting nearly that much time in the gym. Thomas says children in Iowa are getting just 30-percent of the time recommended, “in the years that they’re actually getting it.” She explains most don’t have physical education every year, and high schools typically offer one or two years of it. The second part of the recommendations involves blending physical activity into other aspects of school.
Thomas says that can include scheduling recess breaks and encouraging intramural sports. Just as we tell adults when traveling they shouldn’t sit completely still for more than two hours, Thomas says that’s even more true for younger children. She says schoolkids should be up and out of the desk every hour and-a-half or even more often, depending on the age of the children.
The same recommendations extend to preschools, and to college-level physical education resources. In fact, Iowa’s led the way for the U.S. in recommendations for both physical activity and healthy foods to be served in preschools. That info is available for parents and childcare providers at the state education-department’s website.
Thomas says the site has snack suggestions, activities and a series of questions parents and childcare providers can use to see how they stack up to the “best practices” recommended.