Monday, October 09, 2006

"Not Your Father's PE"

That's the title from a great article from John Cawley and colleagues out of the Hoover Institution and Education Next.

Not that anyone's going to listen to what they have to say.

You see they're saying things that most people don't want to hear.

They're saying that PE in schools is not going to be the magic bullet to our childhood obesity problem.

According to the article, adding an additional 200 minutes of PE time into a week led high school boys to report being active only an additional 7.6 minutes more per week!.

Perhaps the failure here has to do more with genetics and less with motivation.

A fascinating piece was published recently in the International Journal of Obesity. In it Dr. TJ Wilkin and colleagues proposed the existence of an "activitystat" in children whereby by means not yet elucidated (they propose neuro-hormonal regulation) somehow children are programmed to trend towards a specific amount of activity, and then not do more.

The study used uniaxial accelerometers (for objectifying the children's levels of activity) and then compared total daily activities in children with widely varied access to PE.

They included children from a school where they were receiving 9 hours of PE per week (of course a private prep school) to one where they were receiving 2.2 hours per week (a public school with an "Activemark Gold" award for their devotion to PE) to one where they were receiving 1.8 hours per week (an inner city school with no special provisions or facilities for exercise).

What was remarkable was that after all was said and done, all the kids were equally active (or equally inactive depending on how you choose to spin the article).

The kids who exercised more at school, exercised less at home and vice-versa.

To put this all into a different perspective. To burn off one Slammer, a kid would need to be vigourously active for over 30 minutes.

According to Dr. Cawley, assuming a kid only drinks one of these weekly, we'll have to add 10 hours of PE just to burn it off.

Too bad about those vending think maybe if we got rid of them altogether, or stocked them solely with water, zero-calorie beverages and skim milk (plain old skim milk), that we'd have more success than trying to make kids move?

Such a shame that politically, that'll be more of a challenge.