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U.S. School Kids Often Miss Out on Recess, Study Finds

MONDAY, Dec. 5 (HealthDay News) -- Policies that dictate minimum requirements for physical education and recess time in schools lead to increased levels of physical activity among children, a new study finds.

Kids spend most of their waking hours in school, which makes schools important locations for combating overweight and obesity in children, the researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago noted in the report, published online Dec. 5 in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The National Association of Sports and Physical Education and the American Heart Association recommend that elementary students be offered at least 150 minutes per week of physical education, but only 20 percent of third graders in the United States were offered this amount in the 2007-2008 school year, the researchers reported in a journal news release.

In the study, Sandy Slater and colleagues examined the effects of state and school-district level policies that require or recommend minimum amounts of in-school physical activity and recess time. They looked at data from 47 states, 690 districts and more than 1,700 schools.

About 70 percent of the schools offered at least 20 minutes of daily recess and 17.9 percent offered 150 minutes per week of physical education. Most states (83 percent) had no daily recess law and less than half had some kind of law addressing the recommended 150 minutes per week of physical education.

Schools in states with policies encouraging recess were more likely to provide 20 minutes of recess a day, but district policies didn't appear to influence the amount of recess. The researchers also found that schools that offered at least 150 minutes per week of physical education were about 50 percent less likely to provide the recommended 20 minutes per day of recess time.

Schools with predominately white students were more likely than schools with higher numbers of other racial/ethnic groups to have daily recess, and schools with the highest numbers of students receiving free or subsidized lunches were less likely to have 20 minutes per day of recess.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and exercise.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 5, 2011

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