The obesity rate among the nation’s children is dangerously high at 18 percent, and researchers say obesity adds $2,826 a year to the cost of providing health care to an adult in this country.
That means if the trend of ever-higher rates of obesity among young people continues to escalate as it has since 1980 — and even if the rates level off — the cost of caring for today’s young people in their adulthood could be astronomical.
For that reason, it seems particularly short-sighted that the nation’s schools spend an average of just $764 per school year on physical education — $460 for elementary, $900 for middle and $1,370 for high schools, according to the 2012 Shape of the Nation report of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
It’s no surprise that a group dedicated to increasing support for physical activity programs would think that’s not enough, but the point is nonetheless well taken. The organization recommends that schools provide 150 minutes of physical education each week for elementary school children and at least 225 minutes for those in middle and high school. Unfortunately, only 30 percent of high schoolers and 20 percent of younger students get that much.
Young people are spending more time watching TV, playing video games and using other electronic devices than they are running around at playgrounds, ball fields, parks or backyards.
They’ll be far better off in the long run if schools make sure they learn the important life lesson of getting and staying fit by developing the habit of enjoying physical activities.