The soaring rate of child obesity that occurred over the last few years may be attributed to many factors. Among them, the decline in physical education programs and organized sports in high schools across the nation. Fewer than half (48%) of high-school students nationwide attended a PE class last year, according to the CDC. Only 29% of high-school students attend PE daily, down from 42% in 1995.
The results have been catastrophic, and now some schools are actually trying to stem the tide.
Active young people are less likely to be obese and less likely to experience numerous diseases, such as diabetes. They also do better in school. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that young people aged 6–17 years participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Schools are expected to provide half of that, a relatively minimal 30 minutes each day.
It remains a challenge, however, for many schools, who are fighting declining budgets and rising pressure to improve test scores.
Iowa State professor Gregory Welk, a professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and his team of researchers are trying to make it easier for schools by creating the Youth Activity Profile, a tool that helps schools assess children’s physical activity behavior. Utilizing a $400,000 grant, Welk’s team is striving to build objective measurements that will help schools mitigate for factors such as climate, socio-economics and rural v. urban living conditions.
“The problem is it’s very hard to change fitness; it’s influenced largely by genetics and it requires a lot of activity to move fitness,” Welk tells ScienceDaily.com. “Physical activity is something that can be changed more readily through programming, so it is a better outcome measure for school-based applications.”
In the meantime, what can you do to ensure your child is getting the proper amount of activity?
1) Enroll them in at least one physical activity every semester. Organized sports isn’t for every child, but physical activity certainly is. Make sure your child has at least one PE class at all times and ask the school for details as to what goes on during the periods.
2) Ensure that your child knows you take PE seriously. It’s season to overlook them in the quest to focus on academics, but these classes may not only ensure your child’s future healthy but will also make them more alert in class.
3) Do your part! Physical activity doesn’t end at school. Have your child take a break from studying and join them for a walk around the neighborhood. Or send them outside to play before bed.