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Physical activity to become a priority in schools.

Date 5 October 2004

Physical activity to become a priority in schools.

The Obesity Action Coalition is delighted with the Minister of Sport and Recreation and Education announcement today that increased priority is to be given to physical activity and nutrition in schools.

Increasing inactivity among children and adolescents has become a serious concern as the number of overweight and obese children increases. A Hawke’s Bay study released earlier this year found the numbers of overweight children had doubled and obese children more than tripled in the 11 years from 1989. This study found, as did the National Children’s Nutrition Survey released in 2003, that around 1 in 3 children were too heavy for their health.

OAC raised serious questions on the priority given to the Health and Physical Education curriculum after the Children’s Nutrition Survey found that 1 in 5 five and six, and seven to ten year olds had had no physical education class in the week before the survey. In 11 to 14 year olds, 1 in 10 had had no PE class.

“Getting children moving during their school day is a really important part of starting to deal with increasing weight gains and obesity.” says Celia Murphy, Executive Director of OAC. “It will reinforce what children learn in the classroom and help schools to become healthier places.”

OAC was one of the many health, education and physical activity organisations consulted by SPARC last year as it developed an education framework for physical activity. At the time OAC made a call for physical activity to be made mandatory in schools and for teachers and schools to be given more help to get children more active.

OAC is also delighted teachers and schools will be getting more professional training and support to help to get children moving. “The additional training teachers will get will be of enormous value.” says Ms Murphy “Part of the challenge is to make physical activity fun for all children. When it is an enjoyable experience they are more likely to carry on the habit as they get older. Regular physical activity at school should go long way to helping maintain a healthy weight later in life too.”

There is good evidence, including a good deal of anecdotal evidence from teachers, that shows active children who eat well learn better and are easier to deal with in the classroom. “Physical activity and good nutrition are vital if children are to maximize their learning opportunities at school. Healthy, fit kids learn better and have more fun.”

“These initiatives will help give the very good Health and Physical Education curriculum the high status it deserves.” says Ms Murphy. “All of this is very good news.”

ENDS

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