By Chuck Corbin, Arizona State University
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans report recommends that children and youth perform 60 or more minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) daily. The report further indicates that the weekly MVPA should include vigorous activity (which elevates heart rate) and muscle fitness exercise (which builds bones) on at least three days a week. Meeting the guidelines for children and youth yields many benefits, as indicated in the report (USDHHS, 2018).
- Childhood and adolescence are critical times for developing movement skills, learning healthy habits, and setting the stage for lifelong health and well-being. Incorporating MVPA into physical education provides opportunities for youth to achieve these benefits.
- Physical activity promotes health and fitness in children and adolescents. Physically active youth have higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness than their inactive peers. They also typically have lower body fat, stronger muscles, and stronger bones.
- Physical activity also has brain benefits for school-age children, including improved cognition and reduced symptoms of depression. Evidence indicates that moderate to vigorous physical activity improves the cognitive functions of memory, executive function, processing speed, attention, and academic performance.
- Obesity and other disease risk factors such as elevated insulin, blood lipids, and blood pressure are increasingly common in children and adolescents. Physical activity makes these risk factors less likely during childhood, making it more likely that the children will remain healthy when they become adults.
- Exercise training for youth who are overweight or obese can improve body composition by reducing overall levels of body fat as well as abdominal fat.
As health and physical educators, it is important for us to be aware of these benefits. But it is also important for us to teach our students about these benefits. Specifically, we can (1) help students know how much physical activity is enough to achieve health benefits, (2) help students learn concepts that help them to become good consumers and decision makers, and (3) help students learn self-management skills that give them the tools for lifelong physical activity planning. Well-planned fitness education programs have been shown to help youth reach these goals (Kulinna, Corbin, & Yu, 2018). Finally, it is important for us to make parents and administrators aware of the benefits of MVPA and to show them how our programs can help our youth achieve them.
Kulinna, P.H., Corbin, C.B., & Yu, H. (2018). Effectiveness of secondary school conceptual physical education: A 20-year longitudinal study. Journal of Physical Activity and Health. 15(12), 1-6.
USDHHS. (2018). Physical activity guidelines for Americans. Retrieved from https://health.gov/paguidelines/second-edition/pdf/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
Chuck practices what he preaches. After 45 years of teaching, researching, writing, and promoting regular healthy lifestyles, he walks, plays golf, does his own yard work, and does regular core and muscle fitness exercises. He enjoys playing his guitar as well as traveling with his wife of 56 years and being with his four granddaughters. Learn more about the books written by Chuck, including the Fitness for Life and Health for Life resources.