How Much Physical Activity Should My Kid Get?
Bob Rauner, MD, MPH, Director at Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln
ids who are more physically fit do better in school. Numerous studies also show physical activity improves attention span, decreases behavior problems and improves short-term memory. We have been studying this in Lincoln Public Schools for the past six years, and year after year we see better results on standardized tests for math, reading and science. This benefit occurs regardless of race, gender or income levels. Being physically fit requires a minimum amount of physical activity each day, which can be hard to get for some kids. Obstacles might include not having a safe place to play outside near home,
or past cuts in physical education (PE) time in elementary schools that came from No Child Left Behind requirements. So, given the importance of physical activity for our kids, how would a parent know their child is getting enough? Two common measures of the
amount of physical activity are either a minimum number of steps per day or a minimum number of minutes per day. Steps per day is an attractive measure to use because step counters are so common and inexpensive. It’s even a standard feature in many smart phones. Many experts recommend that adults should be getting about 10,000 steps a day. Although there are few studies in kids, many experts think kids should be getting between 10,000 and 15,000 steps each day. Perhaps you could have your child wear a step counter for a few days to see how active they are during a typical day. Minutes of activity per day is another common measure and has more research and consensus. Most health experts recommend that children get at least 60 minutes per day of moderate to vigorous physical
activity. During the school year, at least half of that should happen during the school day. Unfortunately, many schools cut PE time during the decade of No Child Left Behind. This happened because No Child Left Behind defined PE as a “noncore” subject along with music and art, thus treating these subjects as optional for schools. Combining this mistaken definition with severe testing pressures for math and reading led many schools to cut PE, art and music from the school day. Thankfully, No Child Left Behind has been replaced with the Every Student Succeeds Act, which places PE, art and music on more equal footing with other subjects as part of a well-rounded curriculum. Many of us in Lincoln are now actively working with Lincoln Public Schools to get more PE back into the curriculum again. If you are interested in being involved with this effort, email us at email@example.com.
Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the health, wellness, and fitness of Lincoln and Lancaster County residents. Visit our website (HealthyLincoln.org) for more information.
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