The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has recently released a report stressing the need to increase physical activity among children and urging schools to find ways to have kids be more active throughout the day. In lieu of the recent controversy surrounding schools sending letters home with student’s body mass index (BMI) scores, it is clear that preventative measures must be taken to improve the health and wellness of America's youth. In response to the growing urgency to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic and improve the physical-activity behaviors of America’s youth, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) has issued the following statement:
U.S. children suffer from a crisis of physical inactivity. Studies suggest that the average child accumulates only 35 of the recommended 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical activity; rates are much lower among adolescents who get only about 8.5 minutes per day. Just 42% of children and 8% of adolescents achieve the recommended levels of activity.
Physical inactivity is associated with obesity, missed school days, lower test scores, less lifetime income, higher healthcare costs, more sick days taken, and early mortality. On the other hand, physically active children have better health and fitness, do better in school, and achieve higher levels of lifetime success.
ACE believes strongly that schools, parents, professionals, community members, and other stakeholders should work together to make 60 minutes of physical activity a reality for all children and adolescents. ACE supports the following approaches to increase youth activity:
- Increase everyday activity through active transportation to and from school by implementing Walk-to-School programs and biking groups
- Increase opportunities for physical activity during the school day with daily scheduled short activity breaks and active recess
- Integrate physical activity into the school curriculum
- Increase the availability of physical education in schools and enhance the physical education curriculum to maximize active time for all students
- Enhance before- and after-school programs to provide more time spent in direct physical activity
ACE strongly encourages its more than 50,000 certified fitness professionals to participate in one or more of these approaches to help make the vision of a more active youth population a reality. In addition, ACE remains committed to providing the training and educational resources necessary to help fitness professionals, coaches and physical education instructors to be prepared and skilled in addressing the fitness needs of our nation’s youth.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2007). School Health Policies and Programs Study. Journal of School Health, 77, 8.
Troiano, R.P., et al. (2008). Physical activity in the United States measured by accelerometer. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 40, 1, 181 –188.
Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Mid-Course Report: Strategies to Increase Physical Activity Among Youth: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/midcourse/
Designed to Move: A Physical Activity Action Agenda: designedtomove.org]