Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Comparison of a PE4LIFE Curriculum to a Traditional Physical Education Curriculum

Academic journal article Journal of Physical Education and Sport

Comparison of a PE4LIFE Curriculum to a Traditional Physical Education Curriculum

Article excerpt


For the first time in 200 years, today's children have a shorter life expectancy than their parents (Olshansky et al. 2005). Because of the prevalence and severity of obesity, especially that of children, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney failure, and cancer can be expected to strike people at younger ages than in previous generations. The result could be that today's children will end up living two to five years less than they should, the first reversal in life expectancy in the modern era (Daniels 2006; Olshansky et al. 2005). Over the last 25 years, the prevalence of overweight children and adults has more than doubled and the prevalence of overweight adolescents has more than tripled (Ogden et al. 2002). Ultimately, childhood obesity can present devastating physical, psychological, and social consequences.

Paradoxically, because of the emphasis on standardized testing, physical education and recess have taken a back seat and requirements for physical education in our nation's schools have been eroded (Story et al. 2006). A survey in 2000 found that 29% of K-5 schools scheduled no recess (Burgeson et al. 2001). The current National Association for Sport and Physical Education recommendation is 150 minutes per week of physical education for elementary school children and 225 minutes per week for secondary school children. However, only 8% of elementary schools and 6% of middle and high schools meet these recommendations (Burgeson et al. 2000). Unfortunately, as a student's grade level increases, physical education requirements drop drastically. From 1991-2003, high school students enrolled in physical education classes dropped from 42% to 28% and, of those, only one-third were active more than 25 minutes three to five days a week. This suggests that the quality of the physical education class, in addition to the quantity of physical activity, is less than ideal and should be addressed further (Story et al. 2006).

Ninety-five percent of the nation's children ages 5-17 attend school and no other institution has more access to children and adolescents during the first two decades of their lives. School systems present a prime opportunity to promote physical activity and healthy eating in that young population (Story et al. 2006). Proposed health goals such as warranting that all children have access to safe and convenient places to be physically active, ensuring that the bulk of food available to children meets or exceeds nutritional guidelines, and reducing the promotion of unhealthy food and sedentary behaviors (Sallis and Glanz 2006) certainly fit within the parameters of a school setting.

Perhaps one of the most comprehensive programs was developed by researchers at San Diego State University (Sallis et al. 1997). Sports, Play, and Active Recreation for Kids (SPARK), sought to educate students on the relationship between physical activity, food intake, and body composition. In addition to encouraging children to develop and maintain acceptable levels of fitness and participate in physical activity, SPARK also taught behavioral skills such as sharing, being a good sport, and demonstrating cooperative behavior.

Two independent programs that have used the SPARK curriculum to target specific populations were Pathways and Fun 5. Pathways were developed to increase activity levels and dietary knowledge of American Indians (Davis et al. 1999) with four primary components: curriculum, family, food service, and physical activity. Fun 5 was developed as both an after-school and elementary program for Hawaiian school children. It sought to encourage children to exercise five days per week and eat five servings of fruit and vegetables each day.

Several programs that have combined diet and physical activity have also included an important home component in their programs. One such extensively implemented program was The Child and Adolescent Trial for Cardiovascular Health (CATCH; Luepker et al. …

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