Entries in Physical Education (5)


More PE in School, New Report Recommends

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Institute of Medicine report out Thursday makes some ambitious recommendations for physical education requirements in schools, including at least 30 minutes a day of movement during school hours.

In the report, the Institute estimates that just half of school-age children get 60 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous activity. They suggest that schools make physical education a core subject and add the movement time through physical education classes, recess breaks, classroom exercises and commutes to and from classes.

Since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, 44 percent of school administrators have reported cutting significant time from "phys ed" classes and recess to devote more time to reading and mathematics in the classroom, according to the Institute of Medicine, a nonprofit that provides public policy research and recommendations.

As the report suggests, giving kids more physical activity seems like a no-brainer to help lower the prevalence of obesity rates in elementary school kids, with the percentage of children ages 6 to 11 years old in the United States who were obese to nearly 18 percent in 2010 from 7 percent in 1980.
But there was very little proof until Wednesday that increasing activity has an effect on childhood obesity.

A study published in the most recent issue of the Journal of Health Economics provided the first evidence that increasing physical education in kindergarten through fifth-grade does, indeed, reduce the chance of obesity, at least for boys.

The Cornell University researchers looked at data from a national registry, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, and from states that require minutes spent in physical education to determine whether more gym time translates into lower obesity rates. They found that each additional 60 minutes of physical education time lowered the probability of obesity in fifth-grade boys by 4.8 percent and did so without cutting into academics or harming test scores.

The study found the extra gym had almost no effect on girls' obesity rates.

"What could be happening here is that more time in the gym leads boys to become more active outside of school but girls engage in offsetting behavior like increasing TV watching without spending more time outside of school being active," the study's lead researcher, John Cawely, noted.

The Institute of Medicine report also advocates for increased access to intramural and varsity sports. Despite the recommendation, the effect of afterschool sports on weight is far from clear.

In a recent analysis of 19 studies, no solid connection emerged between obesity rates and afterschool sports participation. While a few of the studies noted some small improvements in body weight in some, but not all, kid athletes, other studies found no differences in body weight at all.

One study in the analysis found that fewer than 25 percent of kids who participated in soccer, baseball and softball leagues met recommended levels of activity during their sport team practice. And a few small studies linked sports participation to higher consumption of fast-food that, of course, highlights overconsumption, the other side of the obesity equation.

This last point has not gone unnoticed by parents like Kim Gorman, who say the post-practice junk food ritual is as pervasive in the afterschool sports culture as spiffy uniforms and participation trophies.

Gorman said that when her oldest son Alex, who is now 16, began playing soccer at age 3, she was appalled to find the typical team treat consisted of a juice box and cupcake.

The mother of three, who also happens to be the weight management program director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado in Denver, did some quick calculations and determined the average sports munchie tallied up to nearly 500 sugary, fat-laden calories.

"Even though practice was an hour long, each kid ran around for maybe 15 minutes," she said. "Maybe they burned up 100 calories in that time. So they probably ate 400 calories more than they were burning off."

U.S. dietary guidelines state that moderately active children up to 8 years old should eat no more than 1,600 calories a day. By Gorman's estimates, the average snack, at least like the kind that used to be offered at her kid's team snack tables before she took charge, delivered more than a third of daily caloric requirements.

Gorman does note that the Institute of Medicine recommendations for more physical activity opportunities during the school day is a good move and might help offset the amount of junk food all kids seem to eat regardless of activity level. She's just not sure it will be enough to make a dent in childhood obesity rates.

"There is this perception that Joey is moving a lot because he does sports or he takes PE, but we've lost big chunks of play time in this society and even a kid who goes to a two hour practice may not be doing enough to balance the overconsumption," she said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Encinitas Union School District in California Sued over Yoga Classes

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- What was intended as a fun addition to physical education in a California school district has sparked controversy among parents who feel Ashtanga yoga infringes on their religious beliefs.

The National Center for Law & Policy (NCLP) is representing a family that is suing the Encinitas Union School District for "civil rights violations resulting from its inherently and pervasively religious Ashtanga yoga program."

"If you research yoga and Hinduism, most people would say Hinduism is yoga and yoga is Hinduism," Dean Broyles, an attorney representing the family, told ABC News. "It's a situation where the state is endorsing religious beliefs and practices, which is forbidden under California and federal law."

The lawsuit was filed in San Diego Superior Court Wednesday and outlines the concerns of the plaintiffs, Stephen and Jennifer Sedlock, whose children are in the Encinitas Union School District.

According to a news release, the family is not seeking money damages, but instead is requesting to have the Ashtanga yoga program suspended entirely.

"The goal would be to have a judge order the district to comply with the law," added Broyles. "If they comply with the law, they will need to suspend the yoga program and offer physical education that complies with the law to their students."

Yet, Encinitas Superintendent Timothy Baird said the yoga classes are a "typical P.E. class" that have been a successful and positive component to the district's health and wellness program without any religious implications.

"If you were to walk in there, you would feel like you're going into a gym," Baird told ABC News. "The students come in, do some warmups, do the typical stretching and movement. There's absolutely no religious instruction that goes on, whatsoever."

"I believe what he is saying is just the motions of the yoga stretching is somehow invoking Hinduism -- and in America, where 90 to 95 percent of the practitioners are not even Hindu," Baird said.

The Jois Foundation, named after a noted pioneer of Ashtanga yoga, awarded the school district a $550,000 grant to introduce yoga. The group said on its website that it "is working to provide schools with health, wellness, and achievement during a time of massive budget cuts."

Since the grant, Baird said, all schools within the district offer the classes to approximately 5,500 students. However, Baird added, the yoga classes are not actually Ashtanga yoga because it is too demanding for students, but rather a modified version for the K-6 students.

"We are probably using some of the poses found in Ashtanga yoga," Baird told ABC News. "But we have modified this extensively to be done by students of this particular age. And all body types can be successful [with] what we are doing in our classes."

In the news release, NLCP called the yoga "inherently and pervasively religious, having its roots firmly planted in Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist and western metaphysical religious beliefs and practices." NCLP also cited a religious studies professor's support of the claim.

Approximately up to 30 families approached the district with concerns about the classes before the lawsuit was filed, Baird said.

"We have answered questions, we have had them observe classes, and where they were still uncomfortable we had the ability for students to opt out and do other activities," he said. "We thought we addressed the parents concerns here."

Regardless of the lawsuit, the classes will still be offered in all schools within the district, Baird said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Parents May Sue Over Yoga Lessons in Public Schools

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SAN DIEGO) -- Parents in a southern California community are considering legal action over the constitutionality of a form of yoga being taught to their children, which they claim is introducing religion into public schools.

Last month, half of the students attending classes in the Encinitas Union School District K-6 elementary schools in San Diego North County began taking Ashtanga (Sanskrit for "eight-limbed") yoga for 30 minutes twice per week. In January, the other half will begin the lessons.

Concerned parents have now retained constitutional First Amendment attorney Dean Broyles, who says that Ashtanga yoga is a religious form of yoga, and that religious aspects have been introduced into the schools.

"The poses and positions are acknowledged by Ashtanga and Hindi yoga as forms of worship and prayers to Hindu deities," he told ABC News. "They have a spiritual and religious meaning behind them."

Broyles said that although he was at first skeptical that there were truly religious belief and practices being taught to kids, the more he investigated and spoke with parents, the more he realized it was a constitutional issue.

Broyles says that he brought up the matter at a Encinitas Union School District (EUSD) trustees meeting, along with 60 concerned parents, on Oct. 9. Now the EUSD trustees will be reviewing whether the grant money violates the religious freedom of students and parents.

The yoga, which is being taught in all nine of the schools in the district, is being funded by a $533,000 grant from the Jois Foundation, a nonprofit that promotes Ashtanga yoga across the world. All of the instructors teaching the students are certified and trained by the Jois Foundation in Ashtanga yoga.

Broyles points to hedge-fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones and his wife Sonia Jones, who is a known dedicated disciple of Sri Pattabhi Jois, the recently deceased master of Ashtanga yoga, as the money behind the EUSD yoga program. The district's program will be studied by the University of Virginia and University of San Diego to look at benefits of Ashtanga yoga, as outlined in a letter sent to parents by EUSD Superintendent Tim Baird.

"The study will look at the way that public school systems can impact student learning, health, positive relationships, and overall wellness through the implementation of a holistic approach to student wellness," Baird said in the letter.

Calls placed by ABC News to Superintendent Baird were not immediately returned.

The Tudor Joneses, Broyles says, were instrumental in the founding of the Jois Foundation and put up the money for the EUSD Ashtanga yoga grant. He says that parents are now not only questioning Hindu religion entering their schools, but the validity if this study being undertaken.

"We think that children are being used as guinea pigs," he said. "Following the money, you see what's going on … It would be like a charismatic Christian organization funding classes in worship and praise, and also funding a research center at a public university that is studying whether this is an effective form of exercise."

Broyles says that it has been argued that the in-school yoga programs have been stripped of their spirituality. But he says that kids in EUSD are being exposed to Hindu thought and belief within the school.

"On the wall there was a poster that showed the Ashtanga, or 8-limbed deity. There are words showing what the limbs are," he said. "The ultimate goal is to be absorbed into the universe, which is called Samadhi. They had a poster depicting that. Fundamentally it is a Hindu religion being taught through Ashtanga yoga."

Children are also being taught eastern meditation techniques to calm themselves, where one clears the mind of all thoughts, poses that were imparted by Hindu deities, and in one class were trained in drawing mandalas, according to Broyles.

Parents also raised specific concerns about the program aside from the religious aspects, saying that the fact that kids are taking 60 minutes of the 100 minutes per week allotted for physical education to do yoga is inappropriate. Broyles said that for 40 minutes per week the kids are not getting PE, and that they're not offering anything for kids that are opting out of the program.

Broyles says that there are some yoga enthusiasts in favor of the program; he says that people in the district don't really understand eastern mysticism, yoga's roots in Hinduism, and what's being taught.

"If we were introducing Christian worship of bowing, there would be outcry in the community," he said. "It's dangerous to kids."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Research: Physical Activity May Help Kids' Grades Too

Ezra Shaw/Digital Vision/Thinkstock(AMSTERDAM, The Netherlands) -- While physical activity is known to improve children's physical fitness and lower their risk of obesity, new research suggests it may also help them perform better in school.

Dutch researchers reviewed 14 previous studies from different parts of the world that looked at the relationship between physical activity and academic performance.  Their review is published in the journal Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

The data from the studies, "suggests there is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and academic performance," wrote the authors, led by Amika Singh of the Vrije Universiteit University Medical Center's EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research in Amsterdam.

While they didn't examine the reasons why the relationship may exist, the authors, citing previous research, said regular physical activity seems to be linked to better brain function. The effect on the brain could be the results of a number of factors, including increased flow of blood and oxygen to the brain as well as higher levels of chemicals that help improve mood.

This latest report comes at a time when schools across the country debate cutting physical education from their curriculum or have already eliminated it because of budget constraints, the desire to stress academics or a combination of both. There is also concern that physical activity in schools can be detrimental to academic performance.

But in addition to the latest research review, a 2010 literature review done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that out of 50 studies, more than half showed a positive association between school-based physical activity -- such as physical education, recess and extracurricular sports -- and academic performance, and about half found no effect. Only a few showed a negative relationship that could be attributable to chance.

Some of the research reported that concentration, memory, self-esteem and verbal skills were among the improvements noted in students who participated in school-based physical activity.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


More Students Opting Out of Phys Ed Classes Despite Obesity Epidemic

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Physical education advocates say more and more students are being allowed to opt out of gym class in favor of activities like marching band, ROTC, even an extra art class, despite a massive push by doctors, nutritionists and the first lady to get children more active.

Students in some school districts are even allowed to complete their physical education requirements online. They promise to exercise on their own time and just click their way through to course completion.

"This is a serious issue," said Keith Ayoob, director of the nutrition clinic at the Rose F. Kennedy Center in the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "If they don't get anything in school they're probably not going to get it."

Being obese and overweight is the number-one health problem in children, Ayoob said.  A study this year in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that obese children were twice as likely to die of disease by age 55.

According to the "Shape of the Nation" report, released in June by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), 22 states allow required physical education credits to be completed online.  Only five states -- Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Vermont -- require PE at every grade level.

NASPE, along with the American Heart Association, recommend that students get 30 minutes per day of physical education instruction for elementary school children and 45 minutes per day for middle and high school children.

Only one state, Alabama, follows the guidelines at each school level, the NASPE reported.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio