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Poll: Parents Don't Think Students Get Enough Exercise in School

A poll released this week found that one-third of parents believe their children don't get enough physical activity in school.

The University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader asked parents of children ages 6 to 11 about their views on physical activity in schools. The survey found parents in near-unanimous agreement (94%) about the importance of physical activity for elementary-school students during the day, but it found that parents were more divided about whether or not students were receiving the appropriate amount of exercise at school.

Thirty-five percent of the surveyed parents felt that their children's elementary schools didn't dedicate enough time for gym class, 26 percent didn't think their children's schools had enough playground equipment, and 22 percent wanted to carve out more time for recess.

"Academic and budget pressures threaten schools' ability to provide outlets and opportunities for children's physical activity. Many parents are noticing that something is missing," said Sarah Clark, associate director of the poll and associate director of the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the University of Michigan Medical School, in a press release.

It's no secret that schools have been facing tough financial times, and, often, physical education and after-school sports are among the first things to be put on the chopping block. As the report says, "More recently, emphasis on academic achievement, coupled with budget cuts, has prompted many schools to cut back on both recess and gym class."

One key finding from the survey: Overweight and obese parents were more likely than in-shape parents to say their kids didn't have enough exercise in schools. While 31 percent of parents of normal weight wanted more time in gym class for their children, 39 percent of overweight parents wanted the same thing. Fourteen percent of normal weight parents wanted more recess time for their students, while 30 percent of overweight parents did.

"This is a new insight at the national level, indicating that parents with their own weight challenges are even more likely to see schools as a key partner in addressing the risks of obesity for their own kids," Clark said in the press release.

These findings regarding overweight parents are encouraging, considering that a recent study found overweight teens to be nearly seven times more at-risk for heart disease than normal-weight teens, regardless of their adult weight.

The poll, conducted by Knowledge Networks Inc., used a questionnaire Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader administered to 718 parents with children age 6-11 (taken from a nationally selected sample) in January 2011. It had a 54 percent response rate. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 2 to 6 percentage points.

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