The University of Kentucky hosted a summit Wednesday aimed at bringing educators and researchers together to address childhood obesity.
With more than a third of Kentucky children qualifying as overweight or obese, Dr. Steve Wyatt, associate director of the UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science, describes the problem as one that reaches beyond health statistics and into the classroom. But refocusing on physical education, he says, need not be an added burden on schools.
"Physical activity actually improves learning and so it helps with learning outcomes, which the schools are measured against. We understand they're asked to do a lot. We actually think physical activity and good nutrition is a tool to help them achieve their educational outcomes," he says.
Dr. Susan Zapeda, chief executive officer of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky, argued that schools should keep a focus on physical activity by not withholding recess as punishment and taking advantage of programs that integrate activity and learning.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, just 4 percent of elementary schools, 8 percent of middle schools, and 2 percent of high schools in the country provided daily physical education or an equivalent for all students.
Physical activity is not a regular requirement in Kentucky’s K-12 public schools.