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Published in Print: May 20, 1998, as Physical-Activity Guidelines Introduced for Preadolescents

Physical-Activity Guidelines Introduced for Preadolescents

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Children ages 5 to 12 should be encouraged to be active physically several hours daily--or at least 60 minutes--to meet their developmental needs, says a report released last week.

For More Information:
"Physical Activity for Children: A Statement of Guidelines" is available for $13 from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, (800) 321-0789.

The report by the Reston, Va.-based National Association for Sport and Physical Education offers for the first time physical-activity guidelines specifically designed for preadolescents. The current practice has been to apply exercise guidelines for adults and teenagers to younger children.

"There was a tendency to generalize," said Judith C. Young, the executive director of NASPE. "Kids participate in activity differently from adults."

Patterns Differ

Normal activity patterns of children occur in intermittent bursts of energy, followed by a period of rest or recovery. That pattern may be a necessary condition for stimulating optimal growth and development, says the report. In contrast, an adult or teenager might exercise for an entire hour without a break, Ms. Young pointed out.

Another difference between young children and adults noted in the report is the relatively short attention span of children. Activities that last for long periods of time typically do not capture youngsters' attention.

One of the more troubling implications of the report is that inactive children and youths are much more likely than their active peers to lead sedentary lifestyles as adults. Inactivity also leads to poorer health and well-being in adults, the report says.

Thus, as the report found, school recreation has far-reaching effects because many of the skills used in adult recreation and leisure are learned during the school years.

NASPE has received many calls from school officials who want to cut back recess or who have already done so to free up more academic time, Ms. Young said.

"I don't think that's the solution," she said of curtailing recess. "Restriction of physical education in elementary schools is detrimental to a child's overall health and learning." Children need some time during the school day away from their academic work, she stressed.

Vol. 17, Issue 36, Page 8

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