Amid growing concerns about escalating childhood obesity rates and the rise of Type II diabetes, many parents see daily physical activity as key to optimal health and academic success reports a new opinion survey released today by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE). Nearly all parents (95%) think regular, daily physical activity helps children do better academically.

Importance of Physical Education

* Three in four parents (76%) think more school physical education could help control or prevent childhood obesity. * The vast majority (95%) think physical education should be part of a school curriculum for all students in grades K-12. * More than half (at least 54%) believe physical education is as important, or more important than academics such as math, science and English.

"In the last 20 years the proportion of overweight children between ages 6 and 19 has tripled to nearly one of every three kids," said NASPE President George Graham, Ph.D., professor at The Pennsylvania State University. "A large reason for this is our children's lack of physical activity is a national crisis. Physically inactive, overweight children grow up to become physically inactive, obese adults.

"If parents see physical activity as a key to helping children do better academically and that physical education could help solve the obesity problem, then families, schools, and communities need to create more opportunities for children to have physical education and be more physically active," Graham added. "For our children to be healthier, we must act now! We can't delay any longer action to support daily physical activity education."

For over 50% of parents, the lack of physical activity and sedentary activities were chosen as the most important causes for the rise of childhood obesity. Forty-six percent of parents chose eating habits as the main cause.

NASPE Executive Director Judith C. Young, Ph.D., said "In many school districts physical education is being cut back to provide more time to prepare for standardized testing in academic areas. This survey shows that parents think optimal health is most important (44%) for their children, followed by having friends/getting along with peers (20%), and academic success (16%) well behind as an important priority." Healthier Lifestyle

Asked to identify the keys to a healthy lifestyle for children, the most frequent responses were a balanced diet (54%) and daily or regular activity (53%). Parents believe their children should average about 75 minutes of physical activity per day. A majority of parents say they do one or more of the following things to get their child to be more active:

* Provide outdoor/indoor physical activity access at home * Participate with them * Plan family activities that include physical activity * Register children for physical activity programs * Remind them.

Most parents (73%) think parents and school officials should work together to make decisions about what students eat and drink at school. Most parents do not think five hours of nutrition education a year is enough, and expressed willingness to pay higher taxes to provide physical education and nutrition education classes. Nearly all parents (93%) think partnerships between local schools and businesses can be important sources for financial support for schools.

The survey, which was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation International of Princeton, NJ, is based on interviews with a nationally representative sample of 2,038 adults (18 years of age and older, 50% male/50% female, 573 parents). The margin of error for the adult sample is + or -- 3 percentage points; when broken into subgroups (those with children in the household) the margin of error is + or -- 6 percentage points. The margin of error for the teen sample is + or -- 4 percentage points. All interviewing was done from April 3 -7, 2003.

Information about the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) can be found on the Internet at, the web site of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance (AAHPERD). NASPE is the largest of AAHPERD's six national associations. A nonprofit membership organization of over 18,000 professionals in the fitness and physical activity fields, NASPE is the only national association dedicated to strengthening basic knowledge about sport and physical education among professionals and the general public. Putting that knowledge into action in schools and communities across the nation is critical to improved academic performance, social reform and the health of individuals.

This survey was funded with an unrestricted research grant from the National Soft Drink Association

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