In China many cities are dealing with an increasing problem of school children suffering from obesity and Shanghai has the most significant difficulties.
The city has 15.1 and 9.2 percent of obese boys and girls. This is 3.71 and 4.19 percent higher than the national average.
Obesity is the biggest cause of school children's deteriorating health, poor reflexes and general strength. It also affects their eyesight.
A recent survey on school pupils and health showed that 42.5 percent of Shanghai's primary school pupils and 73.9 and 81.1 percent of those in junior-middle and senior-middle schools had poor eyesight. This is the worst record in the country.
Children in these latest tests performed poorly in exercises to evaluate their reflexes and skills which were measured by strength and endurance compared to the test group in 2000. The exercises they were asked to perform included push-ups, spot long jumps and 800-meter runs.
To address the problem the city's education authority will make it mandatory for school's to have a one-hour physical exercise class each day. From next semester kids will have three physical education (PE) and two activity classes a week.
The children will have to attend group gymnastics classes at least once a week and eye exercises no less than twice a day.
The authority will ensure that a PE review is included in the overall assessment of high school graduates from this year. And from next year, the authority said, it'll be an integral part of the national college entrance examination.
Primary school kids will be encouraged to sleep at least 10 hours a day and their high school counterparts at least 9 hours to ensure they're getting enough rest.
Shanghai mirrors the widespread decline in kids' health across the nation. In many schools PE classes are cut short or canceled because they're considered a waste of time. Many teachers and parents regard academic records as all that really matters.
Even schools that retain PE have replaced traditional exercises such as box jumping and single and parallel bars with "safer" activities.
(China Daily January 30, 2007)