Research shows that daily exercise has a positive influence on academic performance, but kids today spend too much time sitting, mostly in school but also outside the classroom while watching TV, playing video games or surfing the Internet. Federal guidelines recommend that children ages 6-17 get at least 60 minutes of exercise daily, which can be racked up through multiple spurts of activity throughout the day.
The White House says the most current data, from 2007, shows that just 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools and 2 percent of high schools provided daily physical education.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan said he’s proof of the link between exercise and academic performance. As a boy, he said, he had a hard time sitting still in class but that exercise helped him focus.
“What’s true for me is true for many of our nation’s children,” he said in an interview.
Duncan, who played basketball professionally in Australia, said the choice is not between physical activity or academics, especially with about one-third of U.S. kids either overweight or obese and at higher risk for life-threatening illnesses like heart disease or diabetes.
“It’s got to be both,” he said. Duncan cited the examples of students learning the alphabet while dancing or memorizing multiplication tables while doing jumping jacks.
Mrs. Obama called on school staff, families and communities to help get 50,000 schools, about half the number of public schools in the U.S., involved in the program over the next five years.
The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition, the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation will oversee the program. Funding and other resources will come from Nike Inc., the GENYOUth Foundation, ChildObesity180, Kaiser Permanente and the General Mills Foundation.