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Phys-ed is important

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The recent analysis in the Canadian Medical Association Journal showing the lack of a strong relationship between physical education and reduced childhood obesity should not be taken as an indication that Manitoba's progressive education policy on mandatory physical education in school is misplaced. The purpose of physical education is not to provide exercise, but to arm students with knowledge, skills and experiences in physical activity such that they can monitor and drive their own healthy physical activity throughout their lives. Healthy living requires that we understand the positive effects of activity engagement and the possible negative effects of inactivity, that we feel personally empowered to live an active life and to support activity in the lives of those around us, and that we have the skills to be able to take advantage of the alternatives that we have available to us as we age, and especially if we face chronic health issues.

As students become adults, and are faced with the advice to 'get some exercise' to avoid diabetes, heart disease, obesity and other conditions, they need to have good answers to the following questions: How? What? When? Where? and Why? Primary, secondary and tertiary physical education programs will give them some answers to these difficult questions.

Jane Watkinson

Dean, faculty of kinesiology

and recreation management

University of Manitoba

"ö "ö "ö

Re: Phys-ed doesn't cut obesity, study finds (March 31). As the national voice of physical activity and sport participation in Canada, ParticipACTION agrees that obesity is a complex issue. Physical activity levels are but one contributor to body weight, and school-based programs are but one means to impact physical activity levels in our children.

As outlined in the 2008 Active Healthy Kids Canada Report Card, there are a whole host of factors that impact how active and healthy Canadian kids are. School programs, family role models and hours spent watching television are all important parts of the equation. Our children are spending an average of six hours a day in front of a screen and it's clear that schools can't fix this imbalance alone.

Too much emphasis on body weight may be confusing the real message, that physical activity -- independent of body weight -- is essential for overall health and well-being. Physical activity impacts quality of life, social relationships and plays a pivotal role in preventing chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Kelly D. Murumets

President and CEO


"ö "ö "ö

The article claiming phys-ed doesn't cut obesity (March 31) uses Body Mass Index data to support this conclusion. BMI is a simple ratio of height and weight. It is a really poor indicator of what that weight is made up of. Muscle has twice the density of fat and dramatically skews BMI data. BMI classifies many athletes as obese. I'm not sure what BMI is good for, but it isn't for indicating whether phys-ed is a good idea for kids. That's what the Common Sense Index is for.

Ted Terra


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 4, 2009 A17

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