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U.S. School Kids Should Get Hour of Exercise Daily: Report

THURSDAY, May 23 (HealthDay News) -- Schools should ensure that kids get at least one hour of physical activity each day to support their health and boost performance in school, according to a new report.

Although previous studies show 60 minutes of vigorous to moderate-intensity exercise daily promotes health and development, it's estimated that only about 50 percent of school-aged kids are currently meeting this recommendation, according to the report from the Institute of Medicine.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is an independent, nonprofit organization that works outside of government to provide advice to decision-makers and the public.

Schools "already provide key services such as health screenings, immunizations and nutritious meals," said Harold W. Kohl III, chair of the committee that wrote the report, in an IOM news release. "Daily physical activity is as important to children's health and development as these other health-related services, and providing opportunities for physical activity should be a priority for all schools, both through physical education and other options."

Kohl, also a professor of epidemiology and kinesiology at the University of Texas School of Public Health, and colleagues recommended that elementary students engage in 30 minutes of physical activity in gym class daily. High school and middle school students should have 45 minutes of physical education. At least half of these classes should consist of vigorous or moderate-intensity exercise, the IOM said.

In addition to gym class, children should get more exercise during recess, breaks and classroom exercises as well as in after-school sports, the report said. It advised against revoking recess privileges as a punishment for misbehavior at school.

Since the No Child Left Behind Act was passed in 2001, 44 percent of school officials have cut back on physical education to devote more time to reading and mathematics in the classroom, according to the report.

However, research suggests that regular physical activity may actually improve academic performance, the IOM noted. For instance, aerobic fitness is linked to working memory and problem solving. Recess offers children the opportunity to develop social skills and use their imaginations. Benefits of physical activity during the school day are greater than the benefits of exclusive use of classroom time for academics, the authors concluded.

Across the country, state laws on physical education in schools are inconsistent, according to the report. The IOM advised the U.S. Department of Education to make physical education a core academic subject to enhance content, instruction and accountability. In addition, education administrators must all play a role in ensuring access to physical activity and physical education, the report said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about physical activity and children.

-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas

SOURCE: Institute of Medicine, news release, May 23, 2013

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