LETTER: Missouri schools need physical education to combat childhood obesity

Friday, May 8, 2009 | 1:17 p.m. CDT; updated 2:32 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 7, 2011

I want to highlight an alarming trend. Over the last 10 years, Missouri schools have decreased the time allocated for physical education while increasing the time that kids spend sitting in the classroom.

Across the country and right here at home, childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions. It is estimated that 20 percent of children in Missouri will be obese by the end of 2010. Researchers suggest that the childhood obesity epidemic is largely due to a decline in regular physical activity and a diet that is high in empty and fat-laden calories.

According to the American Heart Association, a lack of regular physical activity can hurt a child’s academic, social and emotional development. Research shows that healthy children learn more effectively and achieve more academically. Experts agree that increasing physical activity is the most important component of any program designed to combat childhood obesity, yet many Missouri schools have cut back on PE programs.

We must give Missouri youth the opportunity to live healthy lives by providing them with more education on the importance of nutrition and the opportunity to be active in a quality PE program. The American Heart Association strongly supports pending legislation that would require all Missouri school districts to have quality physical education programs.

Please contact your state legislators and encourage them to support quality physical education programs for all school districts in Missouri. Together, we can help prevent childhood obesity by helping the leaders of tomorrow implement healthier lifestyles today.




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Ida Fogle May 12, 2009 | 12:19 p.m.

In addition to P.E. classes, recess is vitally important for young children and should not be withheld as a form of punishment. Children learn better, feel better and behave better when they have recess breaks.
Here are some links to articles explaining the importance of recess:

From the National Association of Early Childhood Specialists in State Departments of Education:

Here's an excerpt: "Recess is the right of every child. Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on Children's Rights states that every child has the right to leisure time. Taking away recess, whether as a disciplinary measure or abolishing it in the name of work, infringes on that right."

From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, an article entitled: "Study Finds Regular Recess Time Improves Student Test Scores, Concentration."

From Education World:

An article from U.S. News & World Report, titled "Recess Makes for Better Students."

An excerpt: "Barros and her colleagues looked at a national database of about 11,000 8- and 9-year-olds. Children had one of two levels of recess: none/minimal (1 to 15 minutes/day) or "some recess." The population was divided equally between boys and girls. Kids with more recess behaved better in school, according to a teacher rating system."

From the Florida Dept. of Health:

A site with many links to articles on recess:

A thoughtful paper written by a grade school teacher:

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