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More Sport At School Answer To Child Obesity?

Is more sport in schools the answer to child obesity?

There are already 3 million obese children in Europe and this figure is rising by an estimated 400,000 a year. Bad diet and a lack of physical activity are believed to be the causes.

They form a part of the 14 million overweight people in the EU. This condition can lead to osteoporosis and heart disease - which can develop early. Next week MEPs will debate measures to tackle obesity. One option being considered is guidelines to ensure that children exercise at least 3 times a week at school.

A report by Hungarian MEP and former Olympic Fencer Pál Schmitt (EPP-ED) forms the basis of the debate in Strasbourg on Monday 12 November. The report identifies a number of problems across the Union, including;

* Less time being available for sport: The average amount of time available is 109 minutes per week for primary school and 117 minutes for secondary school. Both of these have fallen since 2002.

* Sport options at school are not diverse or interesting enough for young people.

* Often the sport offered is too competitive.

* Under-funding of sports facilities.

* Insufficient coordination between sport at school and outside of school.

A study commissioned by the Parliament's Culture and Education Committee said that "in some member states the lack of sporting facilities...and PE (physical education) teachers put physical education in a difficult situation". It concluded that "PE is often sacrificed to other academic subjects".

Physical exercise - 3 times a week!

In an attempt to strike a balance between physical and academic education at school the report suggests the following;

*School timetables have at least 3 physical activity lessons per week.

* Physical education becomes compulsory in all primary and secondary schools.

* Better linking of school sports and sports outside school.

* Action to include ethnic minorities and the disabled.

Pál Schmitt has his own advice on how to tackle obesity and keep fit: "as a former Olympian, I'd suggest children exercise on a daily basis, taking part either in or out-of-school sport activities, and adults at least 3 times a week".

His report will be put to a vote as a motion for a Parliamentary resolution on Tuesday 13 November.


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