Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools

15 Dec

The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn. There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and obesity is often prevalent among poor children. The American HeartAssociation has some great information about Physical Activity and Children:

Why is exercise or physical activity important for my child?

Increased physical activity has been associated with an increased life expectancy and decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.  Physical activity produces overall physical, psychological and social benefits. Inactive children are likely to become inactive adults. And physical activity helps with

  • controlling weight
  • reducing blood pressure
  • raising HDL (“good”) cholesterol
  • reducing the risk of diabetes and some kinds of cancer
  • improved psychological well-being, including gaining more self-confidence and higher self-esteem 

How do I promote physical activity in my child?

  • Physical activity should be increased by reducing sedentary time (e.g., watching television, playing computer video games or talking on the phone).
  • Physical activity should be fun for children and adolescents.
  • Parents should try to be role models for active lifestyles and provide children with opportunities for increased physical activity.

What if my child is uncoordinated or overweight?

All children, even less-coordinated ones, need to be physically active.  Activity may be particularly helpful for the physical and psychological well-being of children with a weight problem.

The American Heart Association recommends:

  • All children age 2 and older should participate in at least 60 minutes of enjoyable, moderate-intensity physical activities every day that are developmentally appropriate and varied.
  • If your child or children don’t have a full 60-minute activity break each day, try to provide at least two 30-minute periods or four 15-minute periods in which they can engage in vigorous activities appropriate to their age, gender and stage of physical and emotional development.

Unfortunately, many low-income children are having access to physical activities at school reduced because of the current recession.

Sandy Slater is reporting in the Education Nation article, Low-Income Schools Are Less Likely to Have Daily Recess

Here’s what we know:

Children aged six to 17 should get at least one hour of daily physical activity, yet less than half of kids aged six to 11 get that much exercise. And as kids get older, they’re even less active.

The National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that elementary school students get an average of 50 minutes of activity each school day – at least 150 minutes of PE per week and 20 minutes of daily recess.

• Kids who are more active perform better academically.

As a researcher and a parent, I’m very interested in improving our understanding of how school policies and practices impact kids’ opportunities to be active at school. My colleagues and I recently conducted a study to examine the impact of state laws and school district policies on PE and recess in public elementary schools across the country.

During the 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009 school years, we received surveys from 1,761 school principals in 47 states. We found:

On average, less than one in five schools offered 150 minutes of PE per week.

Schools in states with policies that encouraged daily recess were more likely to offer third grade students the recommended 20 minutes of recess daily.

Schools serving more children at highest risk for obesity (i.e. black and Latino children and those from lower-income families) were less likely to have daily recess than were schools serving predominantly white students and higher-income students.

Schools that offered 150 minutes of weekly PE were less likely also to offer 20 minutes of daily recess, and vice versa. This suggests that schools are substituting one opportunity for another instead of providing the recommended amount of both.

Schools with a longer day were more likely to meet the national recommendations for both PE and recess.

So what does this mean?

We need strong state laws and district policies for PE and recess to help more of our youngest students meet the national recommendations for physical activity.

What can be done?

First, Congress should consider making PE a core requirement of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. This would help ensure that all students get adequate amounts of exercise and that PE classes follow evidence-based guidelines and are taught by certified teachers.

Second, states should adopt and/or strengthen their PE and recess policies so they align with the national recommendations.

Third, school districts should continue to strengthen their policies by requiring time for PE and recess that aligns with the national recommendations.

Finally, given competing time demands and other issues schools face, increasing the amount of time for physical activity during the school day may be challenging. That’s why it’s critical for schools to help kids make the most of the time they do have for physical activity. Schools can do this by increasing the amount of time kids spend in moderate-to-vigorous activity during PE, recess and brief classroom breaks (you can find some resources here and here) and by offering intramural sports and physical activity clubs before or after school.

The gap between the wealthiest and the majority is society is also showing up in education opportunities and access to basic health care.

Moi said in Race, class, and education in America:

Many educators have long recognized that the impact of social class affects both education achievement and life chances after completion of education. There are two impacts from diversity, one is to broaden the life experience of the privileged and to raise the expectations of the disadvantaged. Social class matters in not only other societies, but this one as well.

A few years back, the New York Times did a series about social class in America. That series is still relevant. Janny Scott and David Leonhardt’s overview, Shadowy Lines That Still Divide describes the challenges faced by schools trying to overcome the disparity in education. The complete series can be found at Social Class

To quote Yogi Berra, It’s deja vu all over again


US Department Of Education Helping Series which are a number of pamphlets to help parents and caregivers

Related AHA Scientific Statements:
Physical Activity

Related AHA publications/programs:

See also:
Body Mass Index
Cardiac Disease in Children Statistics
Cholesterol in Children
Dietary Guidelines for Healthy Children
Exercise (Physical Activity) and Children
High Blood Pressure in Children
Infants and Diet

Overweight in Children
Obesity and Overweight

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©


6 Responses to “Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools”


  1. The Healthy Schools Coalition fights for school-based efforts to combat obesity « drwilda - May 12, 2012

    […] The gap between the wealthiest and the majority is society is also showing up in education opportunities and access to basic health care. […]

  2. Report: Obesity is a public health issue « drwilda - June 6, 2012

    […] The gap between the wealthiest and the majority is society is also showing up in education opportunities and access to basic health care. […]

  3. Study: Fitter kids get better grades « drwilda - August 4, 2012

    […] The gap between the wealthiest and the majority is society is also showing up in education opportunities and access to basic health care. […]

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement: Recess is important for children « drwilda - January 3, 2013

    […] Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools […]

  5. In the rush to produce geniuses, are we forgetting the value of play | drwilda - March 10, 2014

    […] […]

  6. University of Colorado Boulder study: Children need flexible play time | drwilda - June 29, 2014

    […] Childhood obesity: Recess is being cut in low-income schools […]

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