Extra-curricular physical activity is a must

Research indicates that if we want the best for our children, encouraging regular physical activity is essential. Most schools offer some physical education options, but recent research indicates we can’t rely on the exercise provided in school physical education classes alone.

In most countries physical education (PE) is built in to the school curriculum at every level, but international research highlights that it may not provide young people with the amount of exercise they need to achieve and maintain the optimal health benefits.

There’s no doubt that today’s schools are faced pressure to offer a broad, all-encompassing curriculum. Every day there is a lot that needs to be squeezed in before the 3pm bell rings, which means that activities need to be prioritized, and it is often PE that misses out. As a result schools generally fall far short when it comes to providing children with the recommended amount of physical exercise each day.

Quality PE increases students’ levels of physical activity ... and helps them learn skills that promote lifelong physical activity.

Dr Dwayne Proctor

A recent poll undertaken by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in association with Harvard School of Public Health revealed that seven out of 10 parents were dissatisfied with the amount of exercise offered at their children’s schools.(1)

Dr Dwayne Proctor is an expert in child obesity at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in Princeton, New Jersey in the United States. He says that parents are right to feel concern about the lack of physical exercise children get during school hours.

Dr Proctor believes that PE needs to be a priority. “Quality PE increases students’ levels of physical activity, improves fitness, and helps them learn skills that promote lifelong physical activity.”

He says that parents can help their children achieve the optimal level of exercise by encouraging them to attend programs outside of school that help to supplement the offerings that schools already have in place.

Dr Proctor’s claims are backed up by the recommendations of Community Interventions for Health, an arm of the charitable organization Oxford Health Alliance. Based in the United Kingdom, Oxford Health Alliance’s key focus is the prevention of non-communicable disease and the promotion of healthy lifestyles.

The Community Interventions for Health (CHI) manual highlights how important daily physical activity is for children and recommends parents oversee alternative options if schools aren’t providing this. (2)

This manual maintains that all children need 60 minutes or more of physical exercise five times a week. It recognizes that schools are not always able to provide the necessary amount of fitness education within school time, and says that, when this is the case, activity may have to take place outside of school hours. The CHI manual also states that programs outside of school need to be set in safe and accessible spaces with appropriate facilities, and that parents should be educated about the exercise options that their children are engaged in.

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