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CDC Releases Guidelines to Promote Physical Activity
in Young People

CDC today announced the release of Guidelines for School and Community Health Programs to Promote Lifelong Physical Activity Among Young People, a set of comprehensive recommendations for schools and communities on how to promote and provide opportunities for physical activity among young people. The report follows the July, 1996 release of the first ever Surgeon General's Report on physical activity and health, which outlined the significant health benefits of regular, moderate physical activity, such as reduced risk of dying of heart disease, and developing diabetes ,high blood pressure, and colon cancer.

"Physical activity prevents disease, and promotes health," said Donna Shalala, Secretary of Health and Human Services. "It helps control weight, reduces feelings of depression and anxiety, and promotes psychological well-being. These important recommendations send a strong message to all Americans who care about our youth, that keeping young people physically active makes them more healthy now, and will prevent diseases they may face in adulthood."

The report, released in CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), states that although American young people are more active than adults, physical activity declines with age among children and adolescents. For example, a 1995 CDC survey showed that 48% of high school girls and 26% of high school boys do not exercise vigorously on a regular basis. Additionally, the CDC reports that the proportion of young people who are overweight has more than doubled in the last 30 years. Meanwhile, participation in school physical education classes has dramatically decreased in recent years--daily enrollment has dropped from 42% of high school students in 1991 to 25% in 1995.


"This past July, we said to all Americans that being physically active has significant, positive health benefits. Now we are following up with solid recommendations for parents, teachers, school administrators, health officials, and community leaders to help ensure that our young people make physical activity a part of their lifestyle," said Dr. David Satcher, CDC Director.


The guidelines include recommendations on 10 aspects of school and community programs to promote physical activity among young people, including policies, physical education and health curricula, extracurricular activities and community programs, and family involvement. The guidelines emphasize that physical activity promotion programs are most likely to be effective when they:

  • Emphasize enjoyable participation in lifelong physical activity.
  • Offer a diverse range of competitive and non-competitive activities that are appropriate for different ages and abilities

  • Develop student skills and confidence to participate in physical activity.
  • Provide access to safe facilities outside of school hours.

According to the guidelines, schools should:

  • Require physical education for all students from kindergarten through 12th grade on a daily basis.
  • Eliminate or sharply reduce the practice of granting exemptions for physical education classes.
  • Increase the amount of time that students are active in physical education classes.

These guidelines were developed by CDC and experts from other federal agencies, state agencies, universities, and national voluntary organizations and professional associations. "We based these recommendations the most current science from the fields of physical education, exercise science, health education, and public health," said Dr. Jim Marks, Director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

"In schools, effective physical education classes are very different from the PE classes that many of us dreaded attending in our youth. We have learned that it is very important for young people to enjoy physical activity, to gain confidence in their ability to be active, to learn how to do activities that they will be able to continue to do throughout their lives," said Dr. Lloyd Koble, Directors of CDC's Division of Adolescent and School Health.

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