June 3rd, 2010
01:34 PM ET

PE classes still aren't top priority, report says

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

Even as first lady Michelle Obama continues  her "Let's Move" campaign to fight childhood obesity, many American schools still don't have adequate physical education for their students.

That's according to a new report, by the American Heart Association and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The report,  "The 2010 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA," found that although there have been some improvements in making PE a requirement in schools, more than half of all states (32) are taking advantage of loopholes that give students a chance to "skip" PE, with waivers and exemptions for other activities, such as band or cheerleading.

"Physical education is more than just kicking a soccer ball around. It's learning about healthy habits, nutrition, and PE helps kids understand the importance of staying active," says Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association. "Every student should be taking PE."

The Shape of the Nation Report provides a current picture of physical education (PE) in the American education system. Even though the number of states requiring PE is up by 17 percent since 2006, the report found only five states required physical education in every grade from kindergarten through 12. It also noted that only one state, Alabama, actually requires the recommended 150 minutes per week of PE in elementary schools and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.

The AHA says it strongly supports state and federal legislation to make physical education an integral part of the curriculum. The association notes that not only does physical education keep kids fit, but studies show that healthy kids learn more when they are physically active. With childhood obesity rates soaring along with hypertension and high cholesterol rates in children also on the rise, the AHA and NASPE say now is not the time to roll back efforts to make physical education a priority in our nation's schools.

"Kids spend a lot of time at school. We feel they should spend as much time learning to be healthy and staying fit, as they do with other curriculum," notes Brown. "Physical education," she says, "is the start to developing good habits in life."

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soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Lucy

    School should be about education. If part of that education includes teaching kids how to enjoy being active, and doesn't shirk traditional academics, then fine. But the same old tired basketball, baseball, football in phys ed doesn't teach anyone anything. Those that enjoy those sports already get a recess from regular classes. Those that don't suffer through a torture period.

    Phys ed should have options to be effective. Dance classes, weightlifting, archery, etc. Things kids might actually want to do, and that would get them started in activities they might keep up on their own. It's the "teach them to fish" concept. That's what will make a difference, paired with nutrition and physiology classes. Simply forcing kids to engage in the age-old gym class model (basic sports, not enjoyed by most), doesn't make anyone thinner or teach them anything but shame and embarassment.

    June 3, 2010 at 13:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Leo Douglas

    Physical education should also be about teaching students the value of a balanced nutrition. Mentoring that exposes kids to people they respect that can speak to health eating would go a long way. This could be done with DVDs featuring sports personalities etc to let kids know its cool and really good for your future to eat well and be active.

    June 3, 2010 at 16:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. KM

    I fully agree with Lucy. The average gym class is nothing but a period of torture for many. The kids who are athletic have a great time and the ones who aren't hate it.
    The only gym class I ever enjoyed was one in high school that taught me about hiking, canoeing, archery, and skiing. It opened up my eyes to the thought that fitness could be fun and not something to be avoided.

    June 3, 2010 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Augsbee

    Has anyone noticed how dumb kids are these days???? Why bother with PE and Obesity when kids don't even know where the White House is located???? They barely know who the current President is.

    June 4, 2010 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. John

    These kids today have no idea what going out to play is. I blame the parents for keeping them in the house with Nintendo and Playstations, and Facebook and all the cell phone crap. When I was a kid (im 33) I hated to be in the house. I used to get punished for not calling for hours because all my friends and I were out on our bikes all day.

    Lucy, Im sorry you feel that way about sports. Maybe you didnt accel in sports but does that mean that you have to sit out? What ever happend to pride and trying to do better?

    Leo my friend you can teach a kid whatever you want in class, but when they go home and mom is making mac and cheese, or Mcdonalds, your balanced nutrition goes out the window. Sorry to say that todays parents are strapped and sometimes have little extra for the good foods. Its alot easier to hit the dollar menu at Burger King to feed 3 kids.

    June 4, 2010 at 10:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mel

    We depend on schools to aid us in raising our children because our kids are there 40 hours a week. School officials and parents can't reasonably expect a caffienated and sugar-stuffed child to quietly sit at a desk for eight hours a day without being able to move. We don't even do that in our offices as adults. That's what we expect from prisoners in solitary confinement! We've turned our schools into educational sweatshops where we create machines full of rote material. They're unable to apply their knowledge to the world around them, and lack basic social skills.

    We can not deny that there is a connection between a sound mind and sound body. There is an element required for a socialized child. Kids have to interact, run, and play. They can't talk in hallways, and many schools have "quiet" lunches where students aren't allowed to talk at all. We have to demand that schools start balancing education, social interaction, nutrition, and exercise are key for our children to be healthy, productive adults. What other time are they able to learn all these necessary skills before they really need to rely on them? Schools should not only PROVIDE the tools for children to use, but provide them with the chance to use them. And, we as parents should demand it.

    June 4, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. juanbojab

    The opinion that pe is a tornute period is a very ill educated one. Then students whom go to math, english, science, ss or any other period could say the same about the class they don't enjoy. so just because you don't like pe class is no reason to call gym a torture class.

    The fact still remain that what has been spoken about is students and people in general being active. if you feel some bias toward physical education, gym, and feel happy saying it is a torture period, okay, but that will not help you get healthier, doing something and i do mean something active like:running, baskeball, volleyball, soccer and for that matter anything that gets you moving.

    So Lucy at the top and the others whom like to agree with her ready this, you want choices in what you do, good, find a school which have those choices for you or your child(ren). Not all the schools have the same facilities and space to play all the sports which could be offered at a physical education class. But if you are stoke in a school which has none of the choices you want, making excuses for not participating in the program they have is not going to help you. Just do what they offer and it will help you. or since you know so much, which other subject do you hate? math, english, science, ss, what? say i will not do this because I hate it? what will happen to your education.

    I am a physical education teacher and your opinion about PE is a very negative and not well informed one. I can tell you to try to enjoy what you have and move. complaining will not help you lose weight, be faster, more flexible, tone your body, get stronger and since you have an opinion on this subject then think about all the other things you could be doing right now instead of complaining about it. PE, gym, is fun, only not so if you are lazy.

    June 4, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Robby

    We had recess three times a day (30 min. morning and afternoon and rest of lunch period) in 1st-6th grade and somehow got educated. Most students get one 20-30 min. recess a day now.

    June 4, 2010 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. C

    Speaking as a Physical Educator (Elementary) I can say that what Lucy said earlier along with others doesn't describe what most Phys Ed classrooms in America look like. I think what people need to understand is that Phys Ed. is not Recess. Phys Ed is not an Athletic Program. Physical Education has a scope and sequence. The purpose and focus of a Physical Education curriculum is Health and Participation....not competition (Athletic Program). Our job as physical educators is to provide a safe environment that will encourage and sustain a healthy active lifestyle. Good teachers and programs can make that happen. If you are going off of past history...your own experiences of "gym", then maybe that's why you feel the way you do. Recess provides great opportunities for children to be physically active. But when it comes to being educated, phys ed offers the best opportunity for that to happen.

    June 4, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. juanbojab

    Thank you Robby, and I would like to add that 75% of our country population is becoming over weight and more people now than ever die from heat problems every year. The lack of activity is a major part of it-plus the diet which even in bad times allows Mcdonald's and Burger King to open new stores nation wide.

    If we don't become more active in this country, social security will be safe, most people will not get to the ege of collecting it. Very sad, but even if you are a genious and don't do exercises, you will die young. Moving is very important, our bodies are made for that purpose. Modern life styles are to tv, hand held games oriented and as technology raises, life health quality goes down. Move, walk, take a stroll, play with your kids, swim, enjoy the outdoors, leave your apartment for a while, you already have too much time enclosed in your work place. allow your body to feel the pleasure of moving, its a gift God gave us, so enjoy it(my respects to anyone who can't walk for physical disabilities reasons, not intended to offend anyone).

    June 4, 2010 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. 456purpz

    I agree with Lucy too. Growing up in the '60's we did all kinds of 'wrong' things...like running full out with little or no stretching/warm-up, and while we survived, it was most certainly not fun. More options, coupled with activities based on a person's current fitness/flexibility level with goals built on improving same, would go much farther to make an enjoyable experience, and who knows, may get a kid to consider trying out for a sports team.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ethan

    I hate you, John. You don't mess with video games. Your just an idiot. The world would be a better place without you!

    June 4, 2010 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Dianne

    How can you promote healthier school lunches and not make PE mandatory? They go hand in hand. Esspecially today when kids aren't playing outside anymore.

    JFK made PE mandatory in schools way back when. We had calisthetics, dance, basketball, volleyball and gymnatstics. You had the choice of after-school basketball or volleyball – anyone could participate. Then again, we didn't have computers so after school we were outside riding bikes, going to parks, roller skating or ice skating, and playing outside until dinner time.

    When I was in high school I was the only girl that loved gym. I worked out with Jack LaLanne every morning before school. I also participated in after-school activities.

    I've never had a weight problem. But, I would also like to stress that our daily food supply back then was healthier and less toxic. Today, our food supply along with lack of active lifestyles are making us sick!

    June 4, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Ed

    Studies have shown that those students who are physically fit score higher on standardized tests, miss fewer days of school, have less discipline issues, and less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, Another point is that summer used to be for kids to be active now with required summer reading kids are staying sedentary trying to get ready for the academic year. Would I be wrong as a physical educator to require summer "fitness activities" so that my students would be prepared for the physical challenges of the upcoming school year?

    June 6, 2010 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Evan Foster

    it is actually hard to master archery, it took me 2 long years to be a master of archery *

    August 11, 2010 at 08:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Molly Moore

    my sister is very skillful in archery and i envy her";

    September 30, 2010 at 03:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Shower Pump 

    when i was a kid i idolize robin hood that is why i love archery today','

    October 18, 2010 at 01:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. craig

    I am 57 and our elementary and high schools required a period of intense exercises such as squat and thrusts. We also played volleyball, basketball, tennis, etc. not everyone was "cut out" for it, but they had to participate. Their well-being was watched carefully and we were not pushed beyond our limits. Nobody got hurt, but many of us got into the best shape of our lives. So, I say PE for everyone.

    December 18, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. tryecrot

    Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

    August 27, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Brad

    Physical education IS more than just kicking a soccer ball around. That is the problem with teachers, students, and parents. Everyone has this old fashioned image of what PE is. They see the class bully just whipping dodge balls at the unathletic kids. Times have changed. PE classes are now focusing on the bigger picture at hand. They are teaching the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle.

    Like what Lucy said, the same old basketball and football games don’t teach students anything. I partly agree with that. Classes are based around trying to give students the right amount of skill set so they can participate on their own time. 45 minutes a day isn’t enough. Not to mention, football and basketball are not just about skill set. They are also tactical games that students can learn and apply to other sports. If students understand the basic tactics of football, then they are able to play other games such as soccer, ultimate Frisbee, handball, ect. The better students are able to understand the sport or game, the more likely they are going to participate in their own time.

    Students shouldn’t be able to “skip” out on PE. More than half of the states are allowing their students to do this. This is unacceptable. Obesity is now more of a health risk than smoking. Schools need to take advantage of their PE program and make sure it is a good one.

    September 12, 2011 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Mckinley Caprice

    Dancing is popular across the world. Ballroom dance, for example is defined as a social dance that follows a regular pattern of steps and encompasses many categories of dance. Form many it is a tradition to celebrate happy times and events through ballroom. In fact, this applies not only to ballroom dance but dance in general. Throughout the world there are a variety of dance forms that have made people move to the music. There is hip-hop dance, salsa, waltz, tango, merengue, fox-trot, mambo, bolero, rumba, cotillion, and more! If you are looking to become the best possible dancer you can be they you should consider taking dance lessons under the supervision of a professional dance teacher..^

    Take a look at our own web site too

    May 1, 2013 at 04:52 | Report abuse | Reply

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