League of Fans Says Childhood Obesity Epidemic Demands That Schools Shift Focus From Varsity Athletics to Sports and Physical Activity Opportunities for the Entire Student Body

Ralph Nader announced today that his League of Fans organization is beginning a push for more quality physical education and intramural sports programs in the nation’s school system in an effort to combat the increasingly sedentary lifestyles of our nation’s children. The announcement came in conjunction with the release of the League of Fans’ fourth report, Sports for All Students, from its Sports Manifesto.

“It’s mind-boggling that at a time when overweight and obesity levels are up among our young people and physical activity levels are down, our schools are cutting physical education classes and intramural sports programs,” said Nader. “Pressures driven by the No Child Left Behind legislation have led to cutbacks in physical education despite research that shows students receiving daily physical education are not only healthier but perform better academically as well. We need a concerted effort to increase quality, fitness-based daily physical education classes, along with a return to the vibrant intramural sports programs our schools once offered.”

Ken Reed, League of Fans’ sports policy director and author of the organization’s Sports Manifesto, said the country must reexamine its priorities when it comes to varsity athletics, physical education, and intramural sports programs.

“As a country, we need to take another look at our emphasis on varsity athletics in schools,” said Reed. “During a growing childhood obesity epidemic that’s negatively impacting the health of our young people, do we really want to prioritize varsity athletics over physical education and intramural programs that positively impact all students? Varsity sports programs should be a secondary consideration in schools that exist for educational — not sports entertainment — purposes.”

Reed also stressed the importance of the lifetime participation model of sports and physical activity vs. the sports spectator model that is so prevalent in the United States.

“As a whole, we’re one of the worst countries in the world in terms of lifelong sports participation,” said Reed. “A small percentage of us play the games and the rest of us watch. The problem starts early. By the time boys and girls reach the age of 13, most are done with sports participation. Increasing the number of quality physical education and intramural sports programs in our schools would help to effectively address this issue.”

“The need for quality physical education has never been greater in this country,” said Brenda VanLengen, vice chair of the Board of Directors of PE4life, a nonprofit that is dedicated to increasing access to quality physical education. “We can’t afford to lose another generation of children to sedentary lifestyles.  Research has shown that fit kids are healthier, and as a result, are likely to have improved learning readiness and behavior. We are excited about League of Fans’ efforts in this area.”


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