April 2014 Web
Physical Activity in Schools – A Challenge
A recent report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM- Committee on Physical Activity and Physical Education in the school Environment, 2013) sheds light on recommendations bringing schools into the 21 st century in terms of school's role in addressing the physical activity needs of students. The IOM recommends a whole school approach. The recommendation is for children to have 60 minutes of strenuous activity a day, with more than 50% incorporated in the school day. The report suggests that physical activity can be spread across he school day including activity before school, during physical education classes, a recess and breaks in the classroom.
One of the recommendations coming from the report is maintenance of recess which can contribute 40% of the recommended time for physical activity. Research has shown that recess enhances attention in the classroom and subsequently learning. This recommendation for recess is consistent with the American Academy of pediatrics' recommendation supporting recess as “free play” and essential for student's normal growth and development
Introducing 10-15 minutes of physical activity in the classroom is emerging as an important method to meet the 60 minutes of activity a day, especially for elementary school children. Sustained classroom breaks have been associated with higher academic performance.
No Child Left Behind (PLNo.107-110) is a barrier to promoting physical activity in schools because the focus is exclusively on mathematics and reading scores that are tied to federal funding. Physical education in fact, is rated as one of the nonessential classes by No Child Left Behind. Addressing this barrier requires creativity. Using a whole school approach, by providing data to show the need with the school and out of school, may get the momentum going and the children moving.