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With heightened attention on childhood obesity prevention efforts, there seems to be some confusion between the terms "physical education" and "physical activity." Often the words are used interchangeably but they differ in important ways. Understanding the difference between the two is critical to understanding why both contribute to the development of healthy, active children. The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) believes every child in the United States deserves both a quality physical education and physical activity program.
School physical education programs offer the best opportunity to provide physical activity to all children and to teach them the skills and knowledge needed to establish and sustain an active lifestyle. Physical education teachers assess student knowledge, motor and social skills, and provide instruction in a safe, supportive environment. NASPE recommends that schools provide 150 minutes of instructional physical education for elementary school children, and 225 minutes for middle and high school students per week for the entire school year. Based on sequence of learning, physical education should not be compared to or confused with other physical activity experiences such as recess, intramurals, or recreational endeavors.
A quality physical education program provides learning opportunities, appropriate instruction, meaningful and challenging content for all children, and should include:
Physical activity is bodily movement of any type and may include recreational, fitness and sport activities such as jumping rope, playing soccer, lifting weights, as well as daily activities such as walking to the store, taking the stairs or raking the leaves. Similar health benefits to those received during a physical education class are possible during physical activity bouts when the participant is active at an intensity that increases heart rate and produces heavier than normal breathing. NASPE recommends school-age children accumulate at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of physical activity per day while avoiding prolonged periods of inactivity.
Opportunities to accumulate physical activity during the school day include time spent in physical education class, classroom-based movement, recess, walking or biking to school, and recreational sport and play that occurs before, during, and after school. Parents and grandparents are urged to get active with their children.
NASPE encourages parents and community members to visit the local schools to view daily developmentally appropriate physical education classes and supplementary physical activity opportunities such as recess, physical activity breaks and after school programs. To learn more about the importance of physical education and physical activity, visit the NASPE Web site at www.naspeinfo.org.
Citation: Ballard, K, Caldwell D, Dunn C, Hardison A, Newkirk, J, Sanderson M, Thaxton Vodicka S, Thomas C Move More, NC's Recommended Standards For Physical Activity In School. North Carolina DHHS, NC Division of Public Health, Raleigh, NC; 2005.