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Less phys ed (P.E.) at school leads to fatter kids... or does it?

Posted Oct 06 2009 9:00pm

TIME  came out with a thought-provoking article a few months back re-evaluating the worth of P.E. or physical education in schools... or the vanishing of this class in schools, rather, over the past 15 years or so.  It is rather interesting, as up to just recently it has been thought that, as the P.E. classes lessen at school, it must follow suit that kids will gain weight.  Thus, the logical next step is to think that this decrease in activity at school must  be a major player in the childhood obesity epidemic... right?  Or does it?

This particular article, " Why Kids' Exercise Matters Less Than We Think" challenges this school of thought.  A study emerging from the United Kingdom ( Peninsula Medical School ) presented findings following 200 children comparing the amount of time spent in P.E.  (varied from 9.2 to 2.4 to 1.7 hours per week).  

Using special devices ( Actigraph ) that monitor both the amount of physical movement and intensity involved, their findings are fascinating and eye-opening! "No matter how much P.E. they got during the school hours, by the end of the day, the kids had all moved around about the same amount, at about the same intensity."  So, c comparing the activity of the children throughout the whole day, all children involved in this study seemed to have gotten similar quality of activity, whether structured at school in P.E. or more free after-school play  (joining a sports club or riding a bike or running around at the park).  Great news!

In a second British article cited (which was also published in the  International Journal of Obesity), there was certainly a difference found in health noted between the truly sedentary boy and the active one but NOT in the type of activity or location i.e. P.E. class versus  unstructured running, jumping throwing balls).  Again, what mattered most, at the end of the day was whether the boy was active throughout the day or not.  "They  must be encouraged to go out and play, but not necessarily be forced into regular P.E. or onto a sports team".  

Thus, two very important points emerge regarding  physical activity and children:

  1. Children must be ACTIVE as much as possible!
  2. Children must be engaged in physical activities that they ENJOY!

In summary, then, according to these and many other  studies emerging, it is being shown that exercise, over the short term, does not seem to help very much with weight loss as once thought; but over the long run will it will certainly help you and you child to maintain his or her weight, keep them healthy, perhaps help them live longer, fuller lives and help diminish the odds of them falling prey to the childhood (and later adult) obesity epidemic.  

Picture by alice rawson, photoXpress

For more info: my training zone - weight management specialists

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