Recess shrinking, kids growing - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Recess shrinking, kids growing

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August 10, 2005

Albany - The demands for students to learn more, score higher, and finish faster continue to pile up. Recess is a thing of the past at some schools as kids spend more time in the classroom. But as their minds grow, so do their bodies. That has many doctors worried about the health of our children.

Coach Doug Albert teaches first graders at Sherwood Acres Elementary a few bean bag tricks to improve their hand-eye coordination and to get their little bodies moving.

"We've got a lot of children who don't get outside enough or get enough physical activity," said Albert. He says kids are getting larger but exercise time is shrinking. "They have 30 minutes a day, five days a week."

Dougherty County requires elementary and middle school students get 60 hours of physical education each year. However, high schoolers are only required to take one semester of P.E. a year.

"They have all these other things they've got to be learning, that P.E. time is kind of dwindling," said Albert.

Swings, slides and see-saws aren't used much anymore. Recess has been replaced with structured P.E. classes. "I don't let them just come out here and play, run, jump, and hop. I try to have some activity with some goal in mind to accomplish."

But are school goals actually hurting our children?

"Some of them are pushing 300 pounds by 16," said Pediatrician Dr. Bruce Smith. Dr. Smith says to prevent children obesity, kids need 45 minutes of free play or exercise at least three days a week.

"They need to use the outdoors, and not spend every spare moments playing video games or watching TV," said Dr. Smith.

He says parents need to make sure their children are getting enough activity once they get home from school. He and other pediatricians are encouraging schools to bring back recess.

"Kids can concentrate better in school and make better grades if they really go out, work hard, and come back after 45 minutes or so."

Smith says besides improving their physical health, free play teaches kids important lessons such as teamwork and sharing. He also says by middle school, a child's lifestyle is typically set. If they don't exercise or eat right, they will most likely be overweight the rest of their lives.

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