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Gym class reduces probability of obesity, study finds for first time

Date:
May 20, 2013
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Little is known about the effect of physical education on child weight, but a new study finds that increasing the amount of time that elementary schoolchildren spent in gym class reduces the probability of obesity.

Little is known about the effect of physical education (PE) on child weight, but a new study from Cornell University finds that increasing the amount of time that elementary schoolchildren spent in gym class reduces the probability of obesity.

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The study represents some of the first evidence of a causal effect of PE on youth obesity, and is forthcoming in the Journal of Health Economics.

The research offers support for the recommendations of organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control, Institute of Medicine, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, all of which have advocated increasing the amount of time that elementary school children spend in gym class, says lead researcher and Cornell professor of policy analysis and management, John Cawley, who conducted the study with Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh University (Cornell Ph.D. 2002) and David Frisvold of Emory University.

Treating variation in the amount of time that states mandate schoolchildren spend in PE as natural experiments, the researchers found that an additional 60 minutes per week of PE time (enough to bring states without an explicit requirement up to the amount of PE recommended by the CDC) reduces the probability that a fifth-grader is obese by 4.8 percentage points.

The researchers also detected a gender difference: additional PE time reduces weight for boys but has a negligible effect for girls. One explanation for this difference, says Cawley, is that PE and other types of physical activity are complements for boys (increased PE leads boys to be more active in structured physical activities like organized sports), but substitutes for girls (increased PE leads girls to spend more time watching television).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. John Cawley, David Frisvold, Chad Meyerhoefer. The Impact of Physical Education on Obesity among Elementary School Children. Journal of Health Economics, 2013; DOI: 10.1016/j.jhealeco.2013.04.006

Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Gym class reduces probability of obesity, study finds for first time." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 20 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130520163611.htm>.
Cornell University. (2013, May 20). Gym class reduces probability of obesity, study finds for first time. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 26, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130520163611.htm
Cornell University. "Gym class reduces probability of obesity, study finds for first time." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130520163611.htm (accessed January 26, 2015).

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