The Richmond Register

October 14, 2012

Does your child get 60 minutes of physical activity a day?

Dr. Jack on Health and Fitness

By Dr. Jack Rutherford
Register Columnist

RICHMOND — If your child isn’t getting at least an hour of physical activity a day, then he or she probably isn’t doing as well as possible at school. That’s right. More and more research is showing that adding physical activity to the school day not only keeps kids healthy, it also increases attention, behavior and positive attitudes leading to improved academic performance. It also improves brain growth and function.

Unfortunately, many schools don’t provide enough opportunities for children to be active in schools. Students often get just one or two classes in physical education per week. And unless they are on an athletic team, there is little after school activity.

A recent national survey found that only 29 percent of high school students had participated in at least 60 minutes per day of physical activity on each of the seven days before the survey. That means that seven of ten students aren’t getting enough exercise for their own good.

Schools are focused on test scores and believe that taking time away from math or science to spend on physical activity will negatively affect those scores. They are wrong. There is plenty of evidence to show that adding physical activity into the classroom will actually increase test scores, even if time is taken away from those academic subjects. Try convincing teachers of that.

Add to that the attraction of all the electronic devices now available to students-- cell phones, video games, television and computers to name a few. It’s easy to see how students can become sedentary.

The bottom line is that parents need to take the responsibility for seeing that their children get enough exercise. This is often difficult because of time and other family obligations as well as the aforementioned lure of electronics.

Nevertheless, regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Add improved academic performance to that list.

Do you know if your child isn’t getting 60 minutes of physical activity a day? And if so, what will you do about it?