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Whole of School Approach to Physical Activity

Nutrition, Physical Activity, School | June, 04 2013

By: Harold W. Kohl, III, Ph.D., PCFSN Science Board Member

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recently released a report entitled “Educating the Student Body:  Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School.”  With funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the report committee was tasked with: 1) assessing the status of physical activity and physical education in schools; 2) reviewing the science behind the effects of physical activity on health, development and academic performance in youth; and 3) making recommendations appropriate with the scientific evidence.

Central to the Committee’s recommendations is a Whole of School approach to physical activity programming.  With this approach, quality physical education is at the core for all students, and other opportunities are provided throughout the school day to ensure that all students meet the youth recommendations of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans—at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day. Such opportunities include active transport to and from school, intramural and extramural sports, recess, active classroom lessons, and before and after school activities.  These strategies, when taken together, can help children achieve the recommended daily physical activity which can lead to better health, development and academic performance.

Historically, schools have played a central role in the health of our nation’s children.  Nutrition (breakfast and lunch), immunization and health screening programs also play a key role in the school setting because healthy students are better able to learn.  The science base that supports physical activity for good health, development and helping students reach their full academic potential strongly suggests that physical activity should be given the same attention as other programs for the sake of our children.

*Notes: Dr. Kohl (the author) chaired the IOM committee that released the “Educating the Student Body:  Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School” report.  PCFSN Council member, Dr. Jayne Greenberg, also served on the IOM committee that issued this report. 

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