Over the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents. There are many contributing causes to this trend, including poor nutrition and more sedentary lifestyles. Considering all factors, though, could the decline in physical education in schools be another significant reason?
Shape America, in their Shape of the Nation report, stated that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends 60 minutes or more of physical activity every day for children ages 6–17, but that only 29 percent of students attended PE during all five school days in an average week.
When considering an average student’s day once they get home, complete homework, and eat dinner, kids do not have much additional time for physical activities. That being the case, this data suggests that 71 percent of students are left with minimal chances of meeting the recommended 60 minutes of daily physical activity.
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Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics reports that 2.4 days is the average number of days per school week that PE class is scheduled for grades 1–5. States vary in their physical education requirements, but the physical, emotional, and academic benefits of daily physical activity for kids is a constant across the board. Students who are active and healthy behave better in the classroom, have higher levels of concentration and creativity, and maintain a more positive attitude about school.
Because of this, some school districts are beginning to get serious about devoting significant time to PE, such as D.C.’s Healthy Schools Act which mandates that schools provide physical education 150 minutes per week for elementary ages and 225 minutes per week for middle school.
However, due to more rigorous testing standards and stringent budget cuts, schools are presented with a variety of obstacles in meeting the recommended class time allotments for physical education. More minutes of the day are having to be devoted to testing and teaching traditional subject matters, and less time and money is being committed to those classes considered more expendable such as PE, music, and art.
With so much evidence supporting physical activity boosting academic performance, educators must question if they are being counterproductive to their goals by limiting physical activity. Based on numerous studies, if physical activity were to be increased during the day, test scores would consequently rise as well.
So with students spending on average over 6.5 hours a day in school, how can parents ensure their children are getting enough exercise and physical activity?
Talk with School Administrators
When it comes to your child’s education and wellbeing, you should never be hesitant to voice your opinions to your school board, local government, and school administrators. Let them know if you are unhappy with the amount of physical education and recess your child receives, and join with other invested parents to express your concerns as a united front.
Volunteer for Extracurricular Activities
Many times, the reason why schools are not offering additional activities is due to a lack of parent volunteers. Speak with your school or Parent Teacher Organization to see if you can organize opportunities for students to get more active, such as a running club that meets before school or an exercise contest that challenges students to be more active. Get creative with your ideas, thinking beyond the traditional context of physical education, and be willing to get involved to make it happen.
Get Active at Home
If your child is not able to be up and active during the school day, then it is time to get moving while at home. Have your kids put down their tablets and game controllers and take a walk with you outside instead. Use the time while you’re preparing dinner to have them moving around taking care of chores, rather than sitting down in front of the television. Talk with your kids about a sport or active hobby they would be interested in doing in the evenings, and then get them signed up. Encourage a more active lifestyle when they are with you at home, while limiting their sitting time since they have been doing that all day at school.
If being able to provide more physical activity throughout the day is a priority for you and your children, then an online education may be the right solution. Being able to plan for more intensive and more frequent exercise and active play times throughout the day is a compelling benefit of online schooling.
With all the credible reasons why physical education can help students become healthier and more successful at school, what are some ways you make sure your child gets in 60 minutes a day?