Pupils active enough, say teachers

Advised exercise classes 'too much for schools'

HEATHER SIMPSON
Last updated 05:00 06/08/2014
exercise, kids, students, play
SCOTT HAMMOND/ Fairfax NZ
PLAY TIME: Bohally Intermediate students Jayden Tasihill, 11, and Alex Bulfin, 11, enjoy a game of basketball yesterday.

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Making all school students do at least 90 minutes of structured exercise a week to address high obesity rates would put pressure on an already overcrowded curriculum, a Marlborough primary school principal says.

Witherlea School principal Murray Hewson said 90 minutes a week of physical education would be a luxury in a heavily loaded timetable.

In an open letter to the New Zealand Medical Journal, associate professor Michael Hamlin, of Lincoln University, and Dr Lee Stoner, of Massey University, said introducing at least three 30-minute exercise classes a week would reduce obesity and make for healthier schoolchildren.

Some Marlborough primary school principals have reacted saying schools are not responsible for all their pupils' health problems.

Pupils were already active during break times and participated in after-school sports programmes, principals said.

Many schools provided short exercise blasts between lessons to refocus students.

Hewson said he would be surprised if there were any primary schools not offering 90 minutes of some sort of physical exercise a week.

The school had a daily fitness period of 15 minutes a day, in addition to 45-65 minutes of scheduled sports a week.

About 75 per cent of students in year 4 and over were involved in sporting activity outside school, Hewson said.

"Teachers often use physical activity if children have been doing heavy intellectual activity. Often a good blow-out in the playground is important for getting students to refocus and raise their learning energy.

"Ideally we would love the luxury of offering three, 30-minute classes a week but the reality is we have a heavily loaded curriculum with the current emphasis around literacy and numeracy."

Hewson said there was a danger physical activity could drop off in schools.

"The school curriculum is very loaded and whenever something needs fixing it's put on the school to do it. We try our best to be responsible and develop well-rounded little people but we can't do everything as well as we can.

"Schools are not the panacea for all health problems. The community needs to be responsive also."

Bohally Intermediate principal Andrew Read said the school already provided 90 minutes of exercise opportunities a week to children.

Schools shouldn't be the first port of call for ramping up exercise opportunities, Read said.

"To say a minimum of 90-minutes structured exercise should be in all schools would need to be discussed further.

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"Every parent wants their child to be healthy and should be taking steps to ensure their child is eating appropriately and getting physical exercise.

"It is not just the domain of schools."

In New Zealand, 11 per cent of children aged 2-14 years are obese and a further 22 per cent are overweight.

A Ministry of Health spokesperson said the Government was concerned if obesity rates continued to rise, so would rates of complications from obesity such as kidney damage from diabetes.

- The Marlborough Express

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