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Surprising Science

That Gym Class Isn’t Making Your Kid More Active

A recently-published review of studies done on exercise interventions for young people shows that by themselves they don't significantly increase children's overall daily physical activity.

Article written by guest writer Kecia Lynn

What’s the Latest Development?

A review published last week in the journal BMJ examined 30 studies, published over more than 20 years, that dealt with exercise interventions for children. In many cases, expectations that the interventions would encourage kids to be more active overall didn’t bear out. “In general, well-designed, well-implemented and obviously very well-meaning physical activity interventions, including ones lasting for up to 90 minutes, added at best about four minutes of additional walking or running to most youngsters’ overall daily physical activity levels.”

What’s the Big Idea?

Lead reviewer Brad Metcalf says that a couple of factors may be at work, including the possibility that kids, feeling as though they’ve put in their “time,” activity-wise, are deciding to spend the rest of the day being “extra-sedentary.” That said, he and his team do not believe that schools should give up on exercise programs. Physiology professor Frank Booth, who was not involved with the review, suggests researchers go back to the source: “Kids naturally love to run around and play…[b]ut they’re just not doing it as much now. And we don’t know why.”

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