Physical Activity at School on Recess

Less Than 3 in 10 High School Students Attend Daily Physical Education Classes

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 16, 2004 -- Despite the rising epidemic of childhood obesity, a new report shows the number of high school students enrolled or physically active in physical education (PE) classes has not increased since 1991.

The CDC study shows less than three in 10 high school students attend PE classes on a daily basis. Researchers say the proportion of high school students attending PE class daily declined significantly from 42% to 28% in 1991-1995 and did not change significantly from 1995-2003.

In addition, the proportion of students exercising or playing sports for more than 20 minutes during PE class three to five times per week has not changed much since 1991 and hovers at less than 40%.

Researchers say the prevalence of overweight adolescents has tripled from 5% in 1980 to 15% in 2000, and inactivity is one of the biggest factors contributing to the rise in childhood obesity.

Although national health objectives call for increasing participation and physical activity in school PE classes, this report shows little progress has been made toward achieving these goals.

The report, based on data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and released today by the CDC, shows that less than 56% of high school students were enrolled in a PE class, and only about 28% attended PE class daily.

If they got to class, less than 40% of the students were physically active by exercising or playing sports during class.

Researchers found girls and students in higher grades were consistently at highest risk for not attending or being active in physical education classes. For example, only about a quarter of high school girls attended PE class daily and a third were physically active in PE classes in 2003.