Main Navigation
Advanced Search>>
Free Newsletter
Health Headlines

Get the latest news in prevention and health matters. This feature includes daily postings and recent archives to keep you up to date on health reports and wires around the world.
Weekly Wellness
Get informed with weekly wellness facts in a diversity of health topics from prevention to fitness and nutrition.
Great tips on what you need to know about keeping healthy and active all year round.

Fundamentals Nutrition Weight Loss Fit Adults Fit Kids Sports Injuries
  Fitness > Fit Kids >  << Previous|Next >>
  School Activity areas do not boost exercise

Most middle schools have physical activity areas -- but few students visit these areas outside of physical education classes, and many of those who do visit just "hang out" rather than exercise, report California researchers.

With teen obesity levels rising, the finding suggests that a valuable opportunity to encourage kids to exercise at school is being lost. More structured programs and supervision to encourage more physical activity could help, the study authors report.

The research team investigated the physical activity levels of boys and girls over a 20-week period in 24 Southern California middle schools (grades 6 through 8). The researchers used a system called SOPLAY (System for Observing Play and Leisure Activity in Youth) to assess the physical activity of individual students during sports and leisure activities.

Each of the schools studied had enrollments of over 1,000 students. One hundred fifty-one areas -- including swimming pools, weight rooms, gymnasiums, and outdoor play areas and court spaces -- were targeted for observation by certified SOPLAY assessors. These target areas were observed before and after school and at lunchtime.

In their report, published in the journal Preventive Medicine, Dr. Thomas L. McKenzie from San Diego State University in California and colleagues note that even during lunchtime, only about 30% of boys and 8% of girls visited physical activity areas at their school. More boys than girls used activity areas, and boys were more physically active than girls before school and at lunchtime.

But the most prominent activity observed in both sexes was "no identifiable sport, game, or exercise." Of games played, basketball was the most common sport played by either sex.

"The pressing need for interventions to increase leisure-time physical activity at multiple settings including schools is demonstrated by the rising prevalence of youth obesity, the multiple health problems associated with physical inactivity during youth, and the high proportion of young people who do not meet health-related physical activity guidelines," McKenzie's team concludes.

Dr. Jay Noffsinger, professor of pediatrics and head of pediatric sports medicine at Saint Louis University School of Medicine in Missouri, is concerned about the level of fitness in middle schoolers. "This study produced some pretty appalling results that are not at all surprising," Noffsinger stated. "Kids in the age group studied don't take the opportunities they are offered to participate in physical activities."

"Prepubertal children are innately aerobically fit, but during early adolescence that fitness starts to decline rapidly," he explained. "At that point, young adolescents have to engage in regular aerobic activity to not lose fitness. Unfortunately, that usually doesn't happen."

"Today, free play is a safety issue, and the middle school environment is often more safe for physical activity and sports than outdoor play at home. School facilities are available, but they are not being used. It makes sense to encourage adolescents to be more active in the school setting, where participating in sports and games is safe," Noffsinger recommended.

Reference Source 46,89
Select a Channel