DALLAS -- Schools are not making the grade when it comes to physical education, according to the American Heart Association.
DALLAS, Aug. 15 -- Schools are not making the grade when it comes to physical education according to an American Heart Association scientific statement.
Public schools need to take a stronger stand against childhood overweight by resisting the trend to reduce physical education and recess time, said the AHA statement released online today in Circulation.
The statement cited "alarming health trends" over the past two decades as obesity rates have risen in children while enrollment in gym class and recess time have dropped.
"It appears that the time has come to consider a remarkably expanded role for schools in providing physical activity to our children and youth," wrote Russell R. Pate, Ph.D., of the University of South Carolina, in Columbia, and colleagues.
Although the AHA and other organizations have recommended that children and adolescents participate in at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day, a CDC survey of high school students found that 37% did not participate in 60 minutes of exercise in an entire week.
Physical education classes are mandated in most states' curricula, but the CDC survey also found that since 1991 the number of high school students participating in daily physical education fell from 41.6% to only 28.4% in 2003. Only 15.5% of middle schools (grades six through eight) offered it daily for at least half the year while 40% of elementary schools required students to participate in gym class and 71.4% provide recess time.
The AHA recommendations for schools to take a leadership role included:
The recommendations for states and school districts included:
School districts across the nation have come under pressure to allocate more of the school day to subjects on state-mandated standardized tests, especially since the adoption of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that increases accountability for scores.
However, "studies have shown no meaningful relationship exists between time allocated for physical education and academic achievement," Dr. Pate and colleagues wrote.
To reduce the likelihood that schools or school districts would cut time for physical activity, the AHA statement also recommended that the states include physical education in the accountability systems along with other "core" subjects like math and reading.