Trends are being displayed that this is a generation of Americans who are at risk to be less fit and less healthy than their parents.
- Only 6 states require physical education in every grade
- Only 4% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools and 2% of high schools offer daily physical education
- Only 20% of school districts nationwide require daily recess
- Only 1 in 3 kids are active on a daily basis
The consequences of this are a generation of Americans who are risk to be less fit and less healthy than their parents.
To combat the growing epidemic of childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama, created the Let's Move! Program
aimed at improving child nutrition and physical activity. With the recognition that children spend most of their waking hours at school, Mrs. Obama announced the development of a program called, “Let’s Move! Active Schools” in February of this year. The program aims to provide schools with simple steps and tools to create active environments promoting 60 minutes of physical activity for students each day.
The program is designed to make this work easier for schools by recommending evidence-based, free or low-cost solutions and providing ongoing support to every school that signs up. The program will mobilize physical education teachers, classroom teachers, administrators, staff, and even parents to be “school champions” for their community.
The benefits of daily physical activity ad improved fitness are real! The state of California has been looking at fitness (PFT Score) and academic performance (CST Score) for years, and has found a strong relationship between higher levels of fitness and better performance on standardized tests.
Here in Utah only 40% of adolescent girls and 55% of adolescent boys currently meet recommended levels of physical activity. The percentage of Utah children and adolescents who are considered overweight is steadily increasing.
Utah mandates physical education in grades K through 6, but does not require recess. The state also mandates ~ 45 minutes per day of PE for 7th and 8th grade students, and high school students are required to participate in the same amount for 3 out of the 4 years. Our kids need more activity at school, and likely at home as well.
There is also increasing emphasis on the quality of physical education to ensure that children and adolescents are participating in moderate to vigorous intensity activity during PE class, such that it improves fitness.
This is one of many reasons why Intermountain Healthcare has created the LiVe Well
program. We're looking for effective ways to get the families educated about health issues and arm them with ways to change.
The decrease in PE nationwide is an unintended consequence of the No Child Left Behind legislation. It is our job as community members, parents, and healthcare providers to shift the conversation to getting kids at optimal activity levels. Contact your local political representative, talk with PTA and school leaders - ensure that your child is participating in high quality PE. Be active as a family. As parents we need to set a good example and be active ourselves so that our children grow up valuing an active lifestyle.
Post by: Elizabeth Joy, MD, MPH