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PE is important part of education
Health advice
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On May 18, the Texas House of Representatives gave early approval to a bill introduced by Sen. Jane Nelson intended to redefine school physical education guidelines and develop a PE curriculum that children can use and follow throughout their lives. Not only will the curriculum provide health benefits at all activity and age levels but it should be enjoyable and teach cooperation and fair play as well.
Pro-actively responding to state data that show more than 40 percent of their fourth-graders are overweight and that one-fourth of the state’s children currently participate in no physical activity whatsoever,  members of the Texas House adopted this measure as one method of keeping their children physically and mentally fit. According to a Texas House Research Organization report, of overweight children between 5-10 years od, more than 60 percent already have cardiovascular disease factors.
In addition to promoting physical activity for children because of multiple health benefits, new research led by Charles Hillman, a professor of kinesiology and community health and the director of the Neurocognitive Kinesiology Laboratory at the University of Illinois, show that physical education classes, recess periods and after-school exercise programs may increase students’ cognitive control, resulting in better performance on academic achievement tests.
Studies have already shown that aerobic exercise increases blood flow and oxygen in adults and that children who receive regular physical activity performed better in school but research by Hillman provided more definitive results and built on studies that suggested that exercise helps brain cells grow and connect with each other as well as being known to set off pleasure chemicals that make a person feel calm and happy. Obviously all these factors go hand-in-hand to improve the ability to pay attention.
Physical activity need not be difficult to gain results. It can be as easy as walking or practicing a curriculum called brain gym, which deals with crossover movements, such as putting your right hand across your body to the left knee as you raise it, and then doing the same thing for the left hand and the right knee. These movements are promoted by PE teachers who say they help coordinate the right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres.
Physical activity does not have to be strenuous to achieve mental and health benefits. Just a moderate amount of daily physical activity each day can help significantly. Even 30 to 60 minutes of activity broken into smaller segments of 10 or 15 minutes throughout the day will have pronounced health benefits over doing nothing.
You don’t really have to join a gym or pay for aerobic classes to get exercise but if doing this ensures you workout — if only to get your money’s worth — then by all means, sign up for one of these programs. But there are many other ways that you can work physical activity into your day. Some alternatives are:
• Walk — especially with a friend or someone you enjoy being with. Park as far away from your destination as possible and walk. If you live in urban areas, walk to do your errands or take a walk during your lunch break.
• Take the stairs whenever you can. Avoid elevators and escalators.
• Jump rope or play with a Hula Hoop while flexing arm and leg muscles. It’s cheap, it’s easy and you can do it just about anywhere.
• Play games with your kids or neighbors. Try new activities with the whole family such as inline skating, swimming or riding bikes.
• Clean your house —- vacuuming, mopping and dusting can be a great workout.
No matter what kind of physical activity you do, there are some important workout basics to remember:
• Warm up
• Stretch
• Cool down

Ratcliff is a spokeswoman for the Coastal Health District. You can call her at 876-2173, ext 236.
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