Childhood obesity affects 1 of every 6 kids in the United States, in part due to a lack of physical activity. Schools can play a key part in offering elementary-age kids lots of chances to be active—on the playground during recess and when they’re in gym.
But recent increasing expectations about academic achievement, coupled with budget cuts, have prompted many schools to cut back on both recess and gym class.
Parents asked about their view on physical activity in schools
The U-M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health asked parents of children 6 to 11 years old for their views about physical activity in schools.
“Parents are virtually unanimous that it’s very important for elementary-school kids to get physical activity during every school day,” says Sarah Clark, M.P.H., associate director of the poll and associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit at the U-M Medical School. “However, one-third of parents think that their kids do not get enough physical activity at school.”
- 35 percent of parents feel their children’s elementary schools have too little time in gym class
- 26 percent think there is not enough playground equipment
- 22 percent say there is too little time for recess.
“Academic and budget pressures threaten schools’ ability to provide outlets and opportunities for children’s physical activity. Many parents are noticing that something is missing,” says Clark.
Another key result from this poll is that parents’ own weight is related to perceptions of the need for schools to help children be physically active. With regard to time for gym, playground equipment, time for recess, and playground space, overweight and obese parents were more likely than other parents to say their kids did not have enough during the school day.
“This is a new insight at the national level, indicating that parents with their own weight challenges are even more likely to see schools as a key partner in addressing the risks of obesity for their own kids,” says Clark.
“School officials should note the strong support from parents for the importance of physical activity during the school day for children in the elementary grades,” continues Clark. “Parents see many reasons why physical activity is valuable for their children—not just in preventing obesity but also in promoting healthy physical development. For parents of children in elementary school, it is critically important that children get the physical activity they need during the school day.”
For more information, please visit the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health.
Data Source: This report presents findings from a nationally representative household survey conducted exclusively by Knowledge Network, Inc. (KN), for C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital via a method used in many published studies. The survey was administered in January 2011 to a randomly selected, stratified group of parents with children age 6 to 11 (n=718) from the KN standing panel that closely resembles the U.S. population. The sample was subsequently weighted to reflect population figures from the Census Bureau. The survey completion rate was 54% among parent panel members contacted to participate. The margin of sampling error is ± 2 to 6 percentage points.
Findings from the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health do not represent the opinions of the investigators or the opinions of the University of Michigan.