According to a study published in the Journal of Health Economics an additional hour every week in gym class was linked to a 4.8% reduction in fifth-graders’ odds of being obese.  Researchers noted that the impact of more physical-education time each week on weight was more pronounced in boys than in girls. 

Childhood ObesityCritics of physical education in schools, get over it — Michelle Obama knows what’s good for you.

More time in gym class actually does reduce the likelihood that young children will become obese, according to a new study published in the Journal of Health Economics. The findings are some of the first evidence that physical education (PE) directly impacts the weight of elementary school children, say the researchers.

Organizations including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have been advocating for longer gym class periods for some time, recommending that children under the age of 17 should spend at least one hour per day in some kind of physical activity.

More physical education is a sound policy in combating the growing obesity epidemic in the U.S., the study suggests. In 2010, 32.6 percent of American youths aged 6-11 were overweight, and 18 percent were obese. States that are serious about reducing children’s obesity risk should increase the mandatory amount of time students spend in PE, write the researchers, and enforce existing standards better.

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Childhood Obesity