The Ministry of Education on Tuesday called for beefed up efforts to ensure one-hour physical exercise per day for primary and middle school students to confront concerns about declining youth health.
Schools that fail to meet the standard should be criticized and barred from any commending activities, said the ministry in a circular released Tuesday.
The ministry launched the "Sunshine Physical Education" program in 2007, requiring primary and middle school students to do physical exercise at least one hour a day, as lack of exercise is a major factor for childhood obesity and nearsightedness, which are the most common health problems for Chinese young people.
According to the most recent data from the Ministry of Education, 8 percent of urban Chinese children between the ages of 10 and 12 are obese, while another 15 percent are overweight.
A survey conducted in 2006 shows that 58 percent of middle school students are nearsighted, with the rate rising to 76 percent of high school students and 83 percent of college students.
Experts attributed the plummeting standards of youth health to modern lifestyles and the exam-oriented education system, in which students study for long hours and have little time for physical exercise.
Schools should make public their physical education schedules to enable the press and parents to better supervise their implementation, according to the circular.