There may be advantages to home-schooling but one big disadvantage is that home-schooled kids are not getting enough exercise, according to a new study by Rice University researchers. That’s true even if the children are enrolled in one or more organized sports activities, the researchers said.
We assumed – and I think parents largely do as well – that children enrolled in an organized sport or physical activity are getting the activity they need to maintain good body composition, cardiorespiratory fitness and muscular development,” said Laura Kabiri, a sports medicine lecturer at Rice. “We found that is not the case. Just checking the box and enrolling them in an activity doesn’t necessarily mean they’re meeting the requirements they need to stay healthy.”
Kabiri and her associates at the Rice Department of Kinesiology studied data gathered from 100 home-schooled children age 10-17 to test their assumption that such activities are sufficient to keep children physically fit — and found that they are not. The Rice researchers’ results are available in an open-access paper in the Journal of Functional Morphology and Kinesiology.
Kabiri said the problem lies in how much activity is part of organized regimens. According to the World Health Organization, children should get about an hour of primarily aerobic activity a day, but other studies have noted children involved in non-elite sports actually get only 20 to 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise during practice.
Home schooling presents challenges
Kabiri said the researchers suspect the same is true for public school students in general physical education classes, where much of the time is spent getting the class organized. “When you only have 50 minutes, it’s very easy for half that time or more to go to getting them in, out and on-task,” she said.
While it’s fairly easy to gather data on public school activities, home schooling presents a more difficult challenge.
“There’s a lot that’s not known about this population, and the population is expanding,” Kabiri said. “Home school is becoming very popular in the United States. It’s grown steadily.
“And now that Texas students can have a free online public education starting in grade 3, I think this population is going to expand. I want to make sure that the health aspect and the physical activity and exercise components of their education don’t fall through the cracks,” she said in a news release.
The researchers concluded parents would be wise to give their children more time for unstructured physical activity every day.
“Parents know if they attend activities and don’t see their kids breathing and sweating hard, then they’re not getting enough exercise,” Kabiri said. “So there should be more opportunities for unstructured activity. Get your kids outside and let them run around and play with the neighborhood kids and ride their bikes.
“If I learned one thing about home-school families, it’s that they are really dedicated to the entire education of their children,” she said. “If there’s an issue, they will want to know and will make adjustments as needed.”