by MAANVI SINGH
NPR News December 10, 2013

Avery Stackhouse, age 7, of Lafayette, Calif., says he wishes he had more time for phys ed.

"We just have it one day a week — on Monday." There's always lunch and recess, he says. "We play a couple of games, like football and soccer," he tells Shots.

But at Happy Valley Elementary, where he goes to school, recess last only 15 minutes and lunch is 45. Between eating and mingling, he says, "there's only a few minutes left where we play games and all that."

Fifty-six percent of parents say their elementary school kids are getting just one or two days of physical education a week, according to a poll NPR conducted in partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard School of Public Health.

Fewer than 1 in 5 parents with children in kindergarten through fifth grade said their kids were getting physical education daily.

Yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that K-5 students get at least 150 minutes a week. Physical activity has a lot of benefits, from reducing obesity to helping kids do better academically.

Louisiana State University's Russ Carson, an exercise researcher, tells Shots the poll results don't surprise him. "This has been going on for years, unfortunately," he says. School administrators can only fit so many things into a day, and often, he says, "testing and other aspects of education take precedence over physical education."

More and more, Carson says parents and educators are starting to "think beyond the gym walls," and come up with ways to fit in exercise before or after school. One idea is to have teachers integrate physical activity into math and reading lessons.

At Wildwood Elementary in Amherst, Mass., kids are required to take a morning walk between the time buses drop them off and classes start.

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