Thursday, May 17, 2012

Required physical education in schools may ensure kids meet daily recommended physical activity levels

In a time period when many schools are eliminating their physical education classes even while childhood obesity and diabetes rates skyrocket in this country, a national study published today in the American Journal of Public Health finds that specific and required state PE time-related laws may be a crucial tool for ensuring that daily physical activity recommendations among children are met.

Researchers examined whether or not public schools in states with specific and stringent physical education laws reported more weekly PE time in the most recent School Health Policies and Programs Survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study included a total of 410 schools grouped by their state’s PE time requirement scores as determined by the Classification of Laws Associated with School Students (C.L.A.S.S. scoring system. Researchers found that schools in states with specific requirement laws (i.e., strong laws) averaged over 27 and 60 more PE minutes per week at the elementary school and middle school levels, respectively, compared with schools in states with nonspecific laws (i.e., weak laws). Compared with elementary and middle schools with no PE laws or requirements, they found that the schools in states with strong codified PE laws averaged over 40 and 60 more minutes a week respectively.

The study’s authors stated, “Decline in physical activity is most pronounced as children transition from elementary and middle school to high school whether physical activity is measured by self-report or by objective measurement. Similarly, there is an increase in sedentary behavior as children transition from primary to secondary school. ….children do not compensate for less PE in school by adding physical activity outside of school, and PE may an important contributor to overall physical activity… [since] average PE time is below school health guidelines….”

The study concludes that codified state PE laws among U.S. elementary and middle schools should both require and specify a minimum amount of PE to address current school health guidelines and gaps in physical activity among children.

[From: “The Association of State Law to Physical Education Times Allocation in US Public Schools.” Contact: Frank Perna, EdD, PhD, Health Behaviors Research Branch, Division of Cancer Control and Population Services, Behavioral Research Program, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Md.,] *Note: To be included in August print issue of Am Jrl of Public Health, but published online ahead of time on May 17, 2012, at 4 p.m. ET.

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