12/12/2011 01:33 pm ET Updated Feb 11, 2012

Low-Income Schools Less Likely To Have Daily Recess

This piece comes to us courtesy of Education Nation's The Learning Curve blog. Sandy Slater, Research Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, writes.

Slater is also lead author of the study "The Impact of State Laws and District Policies on Physical Education and Recess Practices in a Nationally Representative Sample of U.S. Public Elementary Schools."

Obesity is a problem in this country that is getting worse. One-third of our children have an elevated risk of serious health problems because of their weight. Our nation's leading experts agree that we must change our schools and communities to help children eat healthy foods and get more exercise.

Why is it important to focus on schools? Because kids spend about seven hours a day there.

Although there's much work to be done, schools have made progress in recent years. Since 2006, they've started to offer healthier foods and beverages -- like fresh fruit, whole grains and low-fat milk -- with school lunch meals. They've also cut back on some of the less healthy foods, like cookies, pastries and salty snacks.

But they haven't made any progress in the amount of physical education or recess offered to elementary students during this same time period.

Here's what we know:

As a researcher and a parent, I'm very interested in improving our understanding of how school policies and practices impact kids' opportunities to be active at school. My colleagues and I recently conducted a study to examine the impact of state laws and school district policies on PE and recess in public elementary schools across the country.

During the 2006 to 2007 and 2008 to 2009 school years, we received surveys from 1,761 school principals in 47 states. We found:

This piece has been truncated. Read the full piece at Education Nation's The Learning Curve.