You probably had no idea, but it’s National Recess Week. Sad but true: It seems Americans need to be reminded that healthy children need routine playtime. And the stigmatization of certain parts of our diets – trans fats yesterday, soda today, salt tomorrow – isn’t making kids any slimmer. As more reporters, legislators, and ordinary families are beginning to realize, the problem is that children are moving less.
In the Colorado General Assembly, for example, State Sen. Chris Romer is pushing legislation that would require more physical activity in public schools. “Kids used to come home and play kick ball or run around the block on their bikes,” said Sen. Romer. “Kids don’t do that anymore.”
He’s right. A study published last month in the journal Pediatrics found that nearly a third of children get little to no daily recess. The study’s authors suggest that the problem of childhood obesity must be addressed by more physical activity in school, where kids spend a majority of their day.
The same study had another interesting finding that teachers should take seriously: Children who engaged in more physical activity behaved better in the classroom. That conclusion echoed another study, published in January by Harvard researchers, which found a relationship between physical fitness and academic achievement.
As The New York Times summarized the Pediatrics report, “the best way to improve children’s performance in the classroom may be to take them out of it.”
Now consider the misguided efforts of lawmakers who are determined to play the overbearing parents of America’s children by taking away snacks or soft drinks. Despite endless efforts to convince parents that food and drink bans are the right way to address children’s health issues, these measures are failing. Miserably.
It’s good news that so many Americans are taking a different approach by highlighting the importance of getting kids moving. Unlike cupcake or soda bans, more focus on physical activity will bring actual results. And to state the obvious, children are much more receptive to playing kickball than they are to cafeteria ice-cream bans.