I am deeply concerned about the rise of child obesity in Arizona due in part to the lack of physical activity in the schools. Nearly 1 out of 5 Arizona children are obese by national standards. Many schools have cut their PE programs and the only exercise the children now get is unstructured lunch recess which can be less than 15 minutes.

An amendment to HB 2725 Education Omnibus Bill about recess was passed by the Arizona Legislature and Gov. Jan Brewer signed it into law in May.

It states that all public school districts and charter school boards must have open hearings on their elementary school recess policies by Jan. 1, 2011 and if they adopt a recess policy, they must include 30 minutes of daily organized recess implemented by the teacher.

I strongly encourage parents to attend their local school board meetings and ask about their recess policies.

All the current research validates that organized physical activity breaks during the day contribute to better concentration skills, better discipline skills and better academic skills.

I have seen this firsthand as I initiated an organized recess program at the TUSD's Dunham Elementary School.

Each class consisted of exercises, games and sports in K-5 for 30 minutes. The program was an outstanding success as the students improved their learning skills and attendance was nearly 100 percent on the days of organized recess.

Pediatricians and physical educators recommend 30 minutes of daily organized recess on the elementary level.

Because of the success of the recess program, I tried to get a state mandate of 30 minutes per day organized recess, but unfortunately it did not pass the House Education Committee.

However, with the help of my state representative and the Senate education chairman, we managed to get this amendment.

In May I made a presentation to the Tucson Unified School District Governing Board about the recess initiative. They were generally quite positive about it but have not made a decision as of yet.

The parents are the key to this issue. I am sure that they are aware of the rise of child obesity in our state and across the nation and the fact that first lady Michelle Obama has started a full-fledged campaign for better nutrition and more physical activity in the schools, especially in the elementary schools.

In the fall I will be doing workshops at various local schools, giving teachers ideas and suggestions on how to implement the program.

The good news is that it will not cost the districts any additional funds. This amendment was designed for parents to take part in the decision making of the school boards and I sincerely hope they attend their local board meetings and have a voice.

For more information, you can contact me at (520) 777-3000.

Steve Gall is a retired teacher, has a doctorate in physical education and is a volunteer in TUSD. E-mail him at stevejgall@hotmail.com