School fitness programs do not go far enough: experts

Mon Mar 9, 2009 9:06am EDT
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By Dorene Internicola

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Fitness programs in schools help to get children moving, but experts say more is needed to curb rising obesity rates.

Instead of low intensity aerobic exercise, which dominates most school programs, Frederick Hahn, the author of the new book "Strong Kids, Healthy Kids," believes the emphasis should be on strength training and eating the right foods.

"All kids need to let off steam," he told Reuters. "But almost all the so-called fitness programs for kids are wrong-headed."

Hahn, co-founder of the National Council for Exercise Standards, wants to equip school gyms with exercise machines and dumbbells. He said strength-or resistance-training combined with a low-carbohydrate diet is the most effective way to battle childhood flab.

"Strength training is exercise 'concentrate.' You can use a lot less of it," said Hahn, an exercise trainer for 20 years.

According to his book just 30 minutes per week of resistance training will increase muscle mass and speed metabolism in children. Physical activity alone is not enough to prevent obesity in children, he added.

A recent review of 26 studies of school-based activity programs for 6- to 18-year olds in North America, South America, Australia, and Europe, appears to support his thesis.

"It is a must that physical activity be a regular part of the (school) day," said Dr. Maureen Dobbins, of McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, who led the review team.   Continued...

<p>Fitness instructor Fred Hahn trains a young girl on an exercise machine in this recent handout photo. REUTERS/Mira Blushtein/Handout</p>