As issues of childhood obesity become an increasing problem in the United States, a new study out of the University of Georgia shows that students aren’t getting enough physical education in schools due to a lack of clear physical education requirements.
“Findings indicated that statutes were written in a manner that did not explicitly mandate school-based physical education but rather recommended or suggested it,” University of Georgia kinesiology professor, and co-author of the study, Bryan McCullick said to the University of Georgia News Service.
According to the study, only six states require the recommended 150 minutes of physical education for elementary school. Older students have it worse off with only two states meeting the recommended amount of physical education and no states meeting the amount for high school students.
While, many reform efforts have attempted to include physical education, the study shows that states are often reluctant to bring these reforms into the courts and legislature. This becomes a problem in the battle against obesity as children will spend the majority of their time in school.
“Schools have access to children in [Grades] K through 12 for almost 2,000 days of their lives, so schools have got to play a big role,” Rhonda Clements, program director of physical education and sport pedagogy at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. said to The Christian Science Monitor.
As a way to save money as schools face budget problems, often schools are cutting back on gym classes. According to reports from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of students around the country report that they have no physical education during the school week.
A New York Times report shows that in New York City, 20.5 percent of students reported not having any physical education, up from 14.4 percent a decade earlier.
Principals in New York, are often attributing this not only to reduced budgets, but also to a reallocation of resources to preparations for standardized testing.
“There does not appear to be a promotion, or support, from the Department of Education for daily physical education in many of our high schools,” Jeff Engel, a vice principal at Long Island City High School, in Queens, N.Y. said to The New York Times.
Because of these issues the study recommends that states take legislative action in clearly defining the level of physical education required for elementary, middle and high schools.
“The first step to ensuring children have a healthy level of school-based physical education is to ensure that states have mandates regarding quality physical education with clear requirements,” McCullick said to the University of Georgia News Service.
McCullick continued stating that states then need to form a surveillance system to ensure they are implementing the programs properly, as sometimes schools will offer unstructured recess and free time that does not always translate into physical activity.
“Recess does not guarantee 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity,” McCullick said. “Unfortunately, many legislators and school officials think the opposite.”
The study will be published in the June issue of the Journal of Teaching in Physical Education.
Jillian Reed is a writer for 360 Education Solutions