Pump up the volume on quality school PE, researchers urge
Increasing the amount of time schools devote to physical education each week could dramatically reduce the number of children who are doing only minimal levels of exercise, researchers from the University of Otago, Wellington and Sport New Zealand have found. Lead researcher Dr Anja Mizdrak from the University of Otago, Wellington, says increasing PE time at school to 2.5 hours a week could halve the number of young people doing minimal levels of exercise while increasing the proportion of sufficiently active young people to 68 per cent. The researchers used information from Sport New Zealand’s Active NZ Survey of more than 8,000 children and young people aged from five to 17 years to assess current activity levels and then modelled the impact of increasing PE time at school.
Dr Mizdrak says the survey showed 61 per cent of children and young people were ‘sufficiently active’, clocking up more than seven hours of exercise a week. Almost 20 per cent were moderately active (3.5 to seven hours a week) and 19 per cent were minimally active (less than 3.5 hours a week).
While New Zealand schools are required to include PE as part of the curriculum, there is no requirement on how much time should be devoted it, in contrast to many other countries, including Australia, where schools are required to provide at least two hours of PE a week.
Co-Researcher Dr Justin Richards, the Academic Lead at Sport New Zealand and Associate Professor in Physical Activity and Wellbeing at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington, says schools are an important setting for promoting quality physical activity among children and young people.
He says despite PE being part of the curriculum, a large proportion of children and young people surveyed (44 per cent) said they had received one hour or less of physical education at school in the previous week.
Dr Richards says there was variation in the proportion of young people who were sufficiently active among different groups, with males having higher physical activity levels than females and the least deprived young people having higher physical activity levels than the most deprived young people.