The target of two hours of PE a week should be replaced with an entitlement to five hours of organised physical activity, that would bring Scotland into line with England, claims a new report.
The Scottish Consumer Council is calling on the Government to pilot the change in schools in deprived neighbourhoods and to ensure it applies to all secondary pupils, including those in S5-6.
The emphasis on the wider concept of physical activity, as opposed to PE classes, follows a survey by the SCC which showed that, while most S1-4 pupils took part in PE classes, by S6 non-participation had increased to more than 40 per cent. Six out of 10 secondary pupils take part in no school-based extra-curricular activities although three-quarters of the 1,900 11 to 18-year-olds surveyed said they enjoyed sport and exercise in their leisure time, and were keen for more opportunities.
The survey by Ipsos MORI also found that girls continue to be less likely to take part in extra-curricular activities and young people living in more deprived communities had a lower take-up of optional school-based opportunities.
The SCC's Fit for the Future report recommends that active schools co-ordinators should engage with older pupils to encourage them to continue their participation throughout school and into adulthood. Sport-Scotland should invest in areas such as dance and aerobics as a means of improving the participation of girls in physical activity, it adds.
An SCC spokesman said: "Providing a range of physical activities could help make participation more attractive to young people who don't take part, such as girls and those who don't consider themselves to be good at sport."
Douglas Sinclair, chair of the SCC, said: "The vast majority of young people realise that being more active is good for their long-term health and well-being - and there is a willingness to get involved. A third of pupils reported that there are too few opportunities to take part in sport and exercise in school. Let's build on the core PE with informal opportunities in and around school for activities that appeal to them. If that means offering dance or aerobics to young women, we believe that is as valuable as more traditional sports."
Julia Bracewell, chair of Sport Scotland, said the organisation would be examining the findings carefully to gain new insights into the physical recreation needs of Scotland's young people.
92 per cent of young people agree that it is important to keep fit;
78 per cent enjoy PE and games in school and 75 per cent enjoy sport and exercise in their leisure time;
76 per cent had one or two periods of sportactivity per week;
Only 1 per cent of S1-2 children reported having no sportexercise classes;
30 per cent of S5 and 42 per cent of S6 pupils said they had no sportexercise classes;
59 per cent of all ages reported not taking part in school-based extra-curricular sport or exercise;
Students from the least deprived areas are twice as likely as those from the most deprived to do more than two hours of school-based extra-curricular sportexercise (12 per cent compared with 6 per cent).