Students More Likely to be Fit When Physical Education is Mandatory

Release Date: May 1, 2012 | By Sharyn Alden, Contributing Writer
Research Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine

KEY POINTS

  • Only half of California school districts met a state mandate requiring that students in grades 1 to 6 receive 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days.
  • Students in California school districts that complied with a state physical education mandate were 29 percent more likely to be physically fit than students in districts that did not comply.
Follow us on Facebook

Fifth graders in California public school districts that comply with the state’s mandatory physical education requirement are more likely to have better fitness levels than students in districts that don’t comply, according to a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

“Even though California has a physical education law and monitors its compliance, our study revealed that many school districts are not providing the required physical education and too many children go to school in districts that do not comply with physical education laws,” said Emma V. Sanchez-Vaznaugh, Sc.D., the study’s lead author and assistant professor of health education at San Francisco State University.

Grade school children spend a large portion of their day in school, giving educators a unique opportunity to influence life-long health habits. Children who are less physically active are more likely to have poorer overall health and have an increased risk for obesity.

California has a law that makes physical education mandatory for students in grades 1 to 6, requiring that each student receive 200 minutes of physical education every 10 days. Of the 55 school districts for which compliance data were available, only half were compliant.

Researchers found that students in policy-compliant school districts were 29 percent more likely to be physically fit, as measured by performance on a 1-mile run or walk test, than students in noncompliant districts.

Researchers also noted that individual schools might be more apt to comply if there was adequate funding for physical education and to monitor school compliance.

Charles T. Cappetta, M.D., adjunct associate professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School and founder of Granite State FitKids, a child health promotion organization, said, “Mandates are tough to implement. They are nice in theory, but usually don’t work. Still, this policy is a start. Just saying ‘do it’ does not necessarily translate. You need to have an environment or culture in place that supports physical activity and exercise.”

Sanchez-Vaznaugh said, “Parents, educators, policy makers, schools and people involved in children’s health need to figure out how to help schools adhere to physical education laws so that our children can get the needed physical education while in school.”

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required. While the information provided in this news story is from the latest peer-reviewed research, it is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment recommendations. For medical questions or concerns, please consult a health care provider.

###

For More Information:

Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at hbns-editor@cfah.org or (202) 387-2829.

Tags for this article:
Health and Education   Exercise/Physical Activity   Children and Young People's Health  



Comments on this article
Please note: CFAH reserves the right to moderate all comments posted to the Health Behavior News Service. Any inappropriate postings will be removed.

No comments have been entered yet.


Add Your Comment
Your name
Your Comment
Characters left:
Check the box to verify you are a human commenter.