The fat is in the fire. A new report from Shape America, an initiative backed by the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is taking on a weighty issue: the lack of physical education programs offered to kids in school.
Faced with rising obesity rates, most states aren’t doing enough to keep children active and prepared for a healthy future, according to the study released last week.
The report cites only 19 states requiring elementary school students to take gym classes for a minimum amount of time, and just 15 states mandating it for middle schools.
What’s more, 62 percent of states allowed school districts to opt out of physical education requirements by substituting other activities for credit.
“The benefits of physical education ring clear as a school bell,” Nancy Brown, CEO of American Heart Association, said in a statement. “With effective physical education, we can keep kids’ hearts healthy and their minds in gear to do their best at school every day.”
The American Heart Association and Shape America recommend states require elementary students participate in a minimum of 150 minutes of instructional physical education a week, and 225 minutes a week for middle and high school students.
Paul Roetert, CEO of Shape America, said, “Students will benefit now that physical education is a subject included within the definition of a well-rounded education. Physical education teachers are uniquely qualified to ensure that all of America’s students develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to enjoy healthy, meaningful physical activity for a lifetime.”
But there is good news, too, as the report said recent passage of the federal education law, called Every Student Succeeds Act, will offer funding for states to improve their programs.