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Groups back anti-fat bills
Groups address need for physical education

Date published: 2/4/2011

By Chelyen Davis

RICHMOND

--Bills to require schools to provide an average of 150 minutes per week of physical education are just part of what's needed to fight childhood obesity, church and health groups said yesterday.

The Virginia Interfaith Center, the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church, the American Heart Association and others held a news conference to talk about the problem of childhood obesity.

"One in five Virginians between the ages of 10 and 17 are either overweight or obese," said Bishop Charlene Kammerer of the United Methodist Church.

She said the church is working to increase public awareness of the problem, and to increase access, particularly for poor families, to healthy and fresh food.

Children who sit in front of a TV, a video game or even a book for hours are at greater risk for weight problems, Kammerer said, which lead to health complications earlier in life than previous generations suffered.

The groups lauded bills, passed by both houses, that require schools to provide more physical education for children.

The bills would have elementary and middle schools devote 150 minutes a week, on average, to physical education.

That doesn't include recess, though, said Cathleen Smith Grzesiek of the American Heart Association.

She said kids need time for an unstructured break during school hours.

"So giving that time, and not forcing them to be active in that time, is important," she said.

Instead, the physical education requirement doesn't require physical activity, but can include classes on nutrition, healthy lifestyle choices and other health education.

School officials in the Fredericksburg area have said the proposed requirements worry them, because they could require the schools to provide more staff or cut out other programs--like music and art--to make time for physical education.

Chelyen Davis: 804/343-2245
Email: cdavis@freelancestar.com