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LOGUE: What happened to recess?

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If childhood obesity has risen to the level of a national crisis, why are schools cutting physical-education classes?

For all First Lady Michelle Obama’s efforts, some K-12 schools are sacrificing P.E. to budgetary concerns.

A report released last month by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that half of the high-school students surveyed said they had no physical-education classes in an average week.

In San Francisco, only 20 percent of public elementary schools meet the California state requirement of 20 minutes of physical activity for the kids each day.

In New York City, 20.5 percent of public schools had no physical-education classes at all in the week in which CDC auditors visited the schools for their biennial study.

This is an old story only recently writ large by statistics. When schools feel the financial pinch, P.E. and the arts are the first classes on the cut list.

Supporters of the arts have made their case by linking children’s participation in painting, drawing, music and creative playtime to intellectual development and classroom performance.

Supporters of physical education could take the same approach, and I’m sure many have.

The CDC asserts that greater physical activity may improve factors that directly affect academic performance, such as concentration and maintaining attention.

If you want the scientific specifics, here’s how increased physical activity helps the brain:

• Increased blood flow,

• Cerebral capillary growth,

• Growth of nerve cells in the hippocampus, which is the center of learning and memory,

• Neurotransmitter levels,

• Development of nerve connections,

• Increased oxygen to the brain,

• Density of neural network, and

• Brain tissue volume.

With all the recent well-placed concern about bullying, the CDC notes that physical education “reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.”

People between six and 17 years old should participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The CDC survey found that 29 percent of high-school students took part in at least 60 minutes on all seven days prior to responding to the survey. Only 31 percent of respondents said they attended P.E. classes daily.

Some teachers and administrators blame the reduction in attention to physical activity to a governmentally enforced increase in attention to children’s performance on standardized tests.

This change in educational priorities has come under fire for a variety of other reasons.

But it stands to reason that people who are already being forced to make do with less can only do so much before they reach physical and psychological, as well as fiscal, breaking points.

And, of course, schools should not cut English, history and science to accommodate physical education and the arts.

While there are no easy answers, it’s certainly true that growing fresh vegetables in the White House garden while children are deprived of opportunities to romp and play and learn skills that will enhance both their physical and intellectual lives sends a contradictory message.
Read more from:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Education, Excercise, Gina Logue, Obesity, Physical Education, Schools, Voices
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Members Opinions:
July 18, 2012 at 2:24pm
In my opinion, I personally could not agree more with this author. Physical Education is vital in the learning place and should not be compromised when the budget is getting tight. Physical Education has an immense amount of benefits, and allows kids to settle down in a classroom setting. Bringing kids to the classroom without physical activity is only asking for trouble in the long run. The author brings up the point about "bullying" and the argument that physical education allows the mind to “reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.” Here we have two important points: The first, physical activity will reduce bullying, which in a sense allows for a much happier and drama free classroom setting. The second, it reduces depression and promotes psychological well being, both factors that would allow children to concentrate and pay attention better during their classroom lessons. Furthermore, the author brings up an excellent point about children's obesity levels. What good is it if our children our intelligent but can't move because they weigh 100 pounds more than they should? It seems that many members on these school boards are missing a very important point, physical education promotes health. Although physical education cannot measure up to the importance of Science or English, it still plays an important roll in the development of a "wholly-rounded" education.
August 03, 2012 at 9:53pm
Physical education is an essential part of the school curriculum that should be held to as high of a standard as math or science. In an age where about half the U.S. population is overweight, physical education needs to be stressed to the youth of this country more than ever (as well as diet). Plus as mentioned in the article exercise may help with better learning in the classroom due to increased blood flow in the body and brain. Kids get wound up when they have to sit at a desk all day. Physical activity helps in calming kids down so they can focus better in the classroom. Developing good exercise habits at a young age will promote long term health. Schools have to find a way to be able to keep Physical education in the school system. The budgets for some schools may be scarce but cuts cannot be going towards Physical education. It is just too important to go without.
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