This editorial appeared in the Boston Globe on December 9, 2012.  Karen Voci is the Executive Director of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation, which provides the tools, training, and leadership to build healthy communities in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire. Under Karen’s leadership, the Foundation focuses on combating childhood obesity by changing environments where children spend their time; promoting health equity through training and consultation; and supporting Harvard Pilgrim employees to give back to the communities they live and work in through service and giving. Ms. Voci wrote a great piece for our blog earlier this year titled Extended Time = Better Health

RE “LONGER school day plan widens” (December 3): As the funder of programs designed to prevent and combat childhood obesity, I strongly support plans to test the benefits of an expanded school day here in the Commonwealth. Clearly, there are many academic reasons to extend learning time. Yet the opportunity for more physical activity during the school day is equally compelling.

While the US Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children spend at least an hour each day participating in physical activity, only 42 percent of those age 6 to 11 and fewer than 8 percent of adolescents age 12 to 19 actually reach that goal.

In addition to helping to avert a long list of health issues associated with overweight and obesity, including diabetes and heart disease, physical activity is closely tied to academic achievement. Without question, an expanded school day can help ensure that our children exercise their bodies and their minds. This combination of physical fitness and academic rigor is essential for a healthy and successful life.