Fifteen percent of all children ages 6-19 are classified as overweight or at risk of becoming overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the percentage of overweight children in the United States has risen 200 percent over the last 30 years.Sedentary living is a known contributor to the obesity epidemic. As a result of the escalating obesity and physical inactivity of children, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) has just increased its physical activity guidelines for children ages 5-12, recommending that children now get at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours of physical activity each day. The authors of the revised guidelines, Dr. Charles B. Corbin and Dr. Robert P. Pangrazi of Arizona State University, advise the following:
- Children should participate in age-appropriate physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours on all, or most days of the week. - Children should engage in several periods of physical activity lasting 15 minutes or more each day. - Extended periods of inactivity (two hours or more) should be discouraged, especially during daytime hours.
To help achieve these guidelines, NASPE recommends schools set specific times for physical activity before school, recess, after lunch, and during physical education class. The greatest obstacle to physical activity in schools, Dr. Corbin says, comes from the perception that time spent in phys. ed. classes detracts from academics, but evidence shows that physical activity may actually increase academic learning. Dr. Corbin advises that physical education teachers should:
- Expose children to a wide variety of physical activities. - Teach physical skills to help maintain lifetime health and fitness. - Encourage self-monitoring so youngsters can set their own goals. - Individualize intensity of activities. - Emphasize the importance of the process of doing your best rather than the product. - Be active role models.
Parents play a vital role in reaching these guidelines as well because “the single most important time to increase physical activity and decrease sedentary activities such as television watching and computer time is after school, between 3pm and 6pm,” Dr. Corbin states. Instead, he suggests parents need to help their kids find safe and enjoyable physical activities during this time. Dr. Corbin concludes, “The bottom line is that sedentary living contributes to obesity and chronic diseases later in life. Starting the activity habit early in life is crucial.” For more information about the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), visit www.naspeinfo.org. NASPE is part of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD). To order a copy of the new physical activity guidelines, visit www.aahperd.org or call (800) 321-0789. The cost is $16, $12 for NASPE/AAHPERD members. The stock number is 304-10276.