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Published: Friday, 3/1/2013

Shape up, schools

The obesity rate among America’s children is dangerously high, at 18 percent. Researchers say obesity adds $2,826 a year per adult to the cost of providing health care in this country.

If the trend of ever-higher rates of juvenile obesity continues to escalate, as it has since 1980 — or even if those rates level off — the cost of caring for today’s young people in their adulthood could be astronomical.

For that reason, it seems particularly shortsighted that U.S. public schools spend an average of just $764 a year per student on physical education — $460 in elementary schools, $900 in middle schools, and $1,370 in high schools, according to the new “Shape of the Nation” report of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.

It’s no surprise that a group dedicated to increasing support for physical-activity programs would think that’s not enough. But its point is well taken.

The organization recommends that schools provide 150 minutes of physical education each week for children in elementary school, and at least 225 minutes for those in middle and high school. Only 30 percent of high schoolers and 20 percent of younger students get that much.

Young people are spending more time watching TV, playing video games, and using other electronic devices than they are running around playgrounds, ball fields, parks, or backyards. They’ll be far better off in the long run if schools make sure they learn the important life lesson of getting and staying fit, by developing the habit of enjoying physical activity.

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