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Raising Fit Kids: Healthy Nurtition, Exercise, and Weight

  This content is selected and controlled by WebMD's editorial staff in collaboration with Sanford Health Systems.

Why Are Gym and Recess So Important? continued...

A study in 2000 found that only about 6% of high schools and middle schools and 8% of elementary schools with PE requirements provide year-round daily PE instruction for all grades. And although the National Association of State Boards of Education recommends 150 minutes of PE per week for elementary school children, a study of third-graders found that 33 minutes a week was more common.

"This is too bad because PE and recess offer many benefits to kids," Johnson says. 

Some of these benefits include:

  • Higher grades. Studies have shown that children who spend more time being active at school may have better grades and do better on standardized tests. Experts believe that physical activity may help concentration and behavior and improve academic achievement.
  • Better sleep. "Getting enough sleep is really important for kids," Zenel says. "And being more active during the day is a great way to help kids sleep better at night."
  • Social skills. PE class and recess offer a less-structured time for children to develop social skills. "These are often the only times during the school day when children can interact with one another and learn to work out problems on their own," Richardson tells WebMD.
  • Lifelong fitness habits. Physical education classes help kids experience the joys of being active. "If we can expose kids to different activities when they're young, it's more likely they'll stay physically active as adults," Zenel says.
  • Better self-esteem. Being involved in physical activity makes kids feel good and can help improve their confidence and self-esteem.

What Are the Signs of a Quality PE Program?

First, the students shouldn't be standing around. PE classes should keep kids active for at least 50% or more of the time they are in class.

It's also important that there is enough equipment for every child to use and that the instructor is qualified to teach PE.

 

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