Even as first lady Michelle Obama continues her “Let’s Move” and the NFL’s “Play 60” campaigns to fight childhood obesity, many American schools still don’t have adequate physical education for their students.
That’s according to a new report, by the American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education.
The report, “The 2010 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA,” found that although there have been some improvements in making PE a requirement in schools, more than half of all states (32) are taking advantage of loopholes that give students a chance to “skip” PE, with waivers and exemptions for other activities, such as band or cheerleading.
“Physical education is more than just kicking a soccer ball around. It’s learning about healthy habits, nutrition, and PE helps kids understand the importance of staying active,” says Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. “Every student should be taking PE.” Here are some details from a report in WebMD:
The Shape of the Nation Report provides a current picture of physical education (PE) in the American education system.
Even though the number of states requiring PE is up by 17 percent since 2006, the report found only five states required physical education in every grade from kindergarten through 12.
It also noted that only one state, Alabama, actually requires the recommended 150 minutes per week of PE in elementary schools and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.
The AHA says it strongly supports state and federal legislation to make physical education an integral part of the curriculum.
The association notes that not only does physical education keep kids fit, but studies show that healthy kids learn more when they are physically active.
Exercising kids not only tend to bring home better report cards, they do better on standardized test scores.
With childhood obesity rates soaring along with hypertension and high cholesterol rates in children also on the rise, the AHA and NASPE say now is not the time to roll back efforts to make physical education a priority in our nation’s schools.
“Kids spend a lot of time at school. We feel they should spend as much time learning to be healthy and staying fit, as they do with other curriculum,” notes Brown. “Physical education,” she says, “is the start to developing good habits in life.”
For more information on helping your child (and family) make wise physical activity choices, consider picking up a copy of my book SuperSized Kids: How to protect your child from the obesity threat. Both the hard- and soft-cover editions are on sale here.
In addition, I have an entire chapter on how to work with your local school board to help them promote schools with better food and snack choices, and better physical activity choices.