“Pundits and politicians have homed in on one culprit in the childhood obesity epidemic: fattening food,” writes Robert Wood Johnson Foundation project director Carol Glazer in today’s Boston Globe. But, she insists, they’ve hopped on the wrong bandwagon:

Despite its obvious sizzle, scapegoating junk food isn’t the answer; better school nutrition and less fast food is not the panacea … if this nation wants to effectively battle the obesity epidemic, we need to look beyond what kids are eating and start considering what happens after the school bell rings. Can we offer them choices that will help them stay safe and physically active, as well as learn social skills and build self-confidence?

Glazer’s comments come as a recent report from California by the Cooper Institute revealed that “only 25 percent of students met state fitness standards last year, meaning they can perform minimum levels of jumping, running or stretching. ” And statewide, “as many as 75 to 85 percent of elementary schools did not comply with state law, which requires them to provide 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days, according to California Department of Education officials.”

The slow death of gym class isn’t limited to the Golden State. Fox News reports:

From California to Iowa, from Colorado to Massachusetts, cash-strapped schools are gutting their phys-ed programs, letting go of teachers, reducing the minutes of instruction or, in some cases, eliminating physical education altogether.

According to an article published in the medical journal Pediatricsonly 21.3% of all adolescents participated in 1 or more days per week of PE in their schools,” And even when kids do go to gym class, food cop Kelly Brownell notes, they rarely engage in any sustained physical activity:

Studies have shown that out of a typical gym period, only six minutes are spent being physically active! The rest of the time is spent standing in line, visiting with your friends, standing around waiting for the ball to come to you, things like that. So the amount of physical education students get is actually very small — it can be measured in minutes per week.

How about adults? Last week the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report finding that less than 50 percent of Americans meet the government’s minimum recommendations for daily physical activity, and that an astonishing one-fifth of the nation is completely physically inactive — meaning they do not exercise at a moderate or vigorous level for even 10 minutes per week.