Importance of physical education in schools to combat childhood obesity

A University of Newcastle, Australia, academic has received a national award for his research into the importance of physical education in schools to combat childhood obesity.

Dr Philip Morgan, award winning lecturer in Health and Physical Education at the University of Newcastle, says that Physical Education (PE) in schools is inhibited by low status, reduced time in the school curriculum, and poor quality programs.

"Primary schools are failing to provide children with the opportunity to be physically active," says Dr Morgan.

"Primary school PE in Australia has suffered considerable criticism, with many doubting the status of the subject and the quality of teaching in many schools."

"However, it is the schools that are ideally placed to have the most significant impact on the physical activity and future lifestyle decisions made by children," says Dr Morgan.

Childhood obesity has been described as a major public health issue in Australia, with the figures for obesity in children, aged 7 to 15 years, tripling in the last 10 years.

Dr Morgan says, "Childhood has been recognised as a crucial phase in the development of health behaviour. However, studies have shown that children are becoming less active, less skilled and less fit."

"One of the consequences of the increasingly inactive lifestyles of children has been their susceptibility to coronary heart disease and an increase in the risk factors, including high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure."

"Experiences in primary school PE have significant implications for students' education, exercise adherence, health, and future well-being," says Dr Morgan.

Dr Morgan was awarded The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education and Recreation (ACHPER)/Australian Association for Research in Education (AARE) National Doctoral Thesis Award which recognises excellence in physical education and/or health education research. The award is presented biannually to the best PhD submitted to an Australian Institution. The award was presented to Dr Morgan at the recent biennial ACHPER National conference held at the University of Wollongong.

Dr Morgan was also awarded a University of Newcastle Excellence in Teaching Award this year and is a former University Medalist in Health and Physical Education.

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