Schools recognize importance of PE

Garrett Elementary School third-grader Coleman Fleming was among many pupils who broke a sweat this week playing soccer in PE class.

Coleman, who scored three goals, said PE is his favorite class, and he particularly likes one activity.

"I like playing ultimate handball," he said, a sport that involves running and tossing a ball toward a goal.

The 30-minute class, which begins with a 400-meter run to warm up, is required daily for all first- through fifth-graders at Garrett, and kindergarten students participate once a week.

At the middle school level in Richmond County, PE is taught every day and students must receive at least 60 hours of physical education annually. In high school, students must take at least one personal fitness class to satisfy graduation requirements, said school spokesman Louis Svehla.

Garrett Principal Paula Kaminski and coach Chuck Williams say physical activity in school is extremely important because many students stay inside playing video games, using a computer or watching TV after they get home.

Kaminski said PE class is "the saving grace of the school if you've got a super coach or PE instructor. That takes the lid off kids that have that bottled-up energy."

School officials say it also addresses the issue of childhood obesity -- a topic that's been in the spotlight lately.

First lady Michelle Obama recently touted a new Let's Move campaign, which is aimed at solving "the epidemic of childhood obesity" within a generation by providing support to parents and more healthful food in schools and by helping children to become more physically active, according to its official Web site.

About one-third of U.S. children deal with obesity, and $150 billion each year is spent to treat related conditions, according to Let's Move. It says obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years -- "a trend that means, for the first time in our history, American children may face a shorter expected life span than their parents," the campaign's site says.

Kaminski said Richmond County schools have addressed the issue of more healthful foods and have removed sodas and other items.

At Garrett, Williams said, 10 out of 30 students in a PE class could be considered obese, "and it's always a challenge to find something they're interested in."

Williams said he tries to make PE offerings intriguing and fun, citing as an example aerobic states, in which students run back and forth to colored letters with the goal of matching the right colors and spelling out a state's name.

"If they're doing something that's fun, it will carry them through high school," he said.

Let's Move says only one-third of high school students get the recommended level of physical activity. The campaign recommends children receive 60 minutes of active and vigorous play daily to grow to a healthy weight. The campaign says that's a good bit less than the 7-1/2 hours children spend with TVs, computers, video games, cell phones and movies in a typical day.

The campaign suggests physical activity could be increased if children had safe routes to walk to school, parks, playgrounds and community centers.

Tips for keeping kids moving

- Plan a "Kids Walk to School" event

- Reduce the time your child watches TV, plays video games or is on the computer

- Find safe routes for your child to walk or bike to school

- Build a play space in your community

- Encourage your child to stay active at least 60 minutes a day

Source: www.letsmove.gov

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