Regular physical activity reduces the risk of many serious health conditions including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and high blood pressure. Physical activity also reduces the symptoms of anxiety and depression, improves mood and feelings of well-being, and promotes healthy sleep patterns. In addition to reducing the risk of multiple chronic diseases, physical activity helps maintain healthy bones, muscles, joints, and helps to control weight, develop lean muscle, and reduce body fat. The same benefits apply to children and adolescents. Additionally, regular physical activity may improve students’ academic achievement and their ability to concentrate and pay attention.
Only 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. meets recommendations for both aerobic exercise and muscle strengthening. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults engage in at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity (or any combination thereof) of aerobic exercise, and additionally work out all major muscle groups two or more days per week to fully meet physical activity recommendations. For children and adolescents, the CDC recommends 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Schools have a unique opportunity to promote physical activity through comprehensive school physical activity programs, including recess, classroom-based physical activity, intramural physical activity clubs, interscholastic sports, and physical education.