July 10, 2012, CNN
Most schools in the United States are not offering children the suggested amount of physical education, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by Bryan McCullick, a kinesiology professor at the University of Georgia, examined all 50 of the United States and found six states where elementary schools followed recommended physical education guidelines. Two states followed the guidelines at the middle school level, and no states had strong enough regulations at the high school level.
Several other states had some form of physical education requirement, but they did not reach a threshold the researchers thought was appropriate.
What’s the issue? McCullick says schools may be cutting time for physical education to increase time for other subjects, in the hope of raising standardized test scores.
“Physical education is not a measurable outcome,” he says. “Schools say they’d be better off or better served, perhaps, in devoting [time] to math and reading instead of physical education.”
Researchers say physical education policies are still very vague and easily misinterpreted.
“Ambiguous statutes leave interpretation to educators and school boards, two groups that may be ill-equipped to make sense of the law,” researchers’ colleagues write in the study.
There are no federal requirements in place for physical education in schools, but The National Association of Sport and Physical Education does have guidelines: 150 minutes per week for elementary school children and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students.
The fundamental concern, says McCullick, is that people don’t know the difference between physical education and physical activity.
“You could put kids on a treadmill for 45 minutes a day and have them walk … they would get their recommended amount of exercise,” he says. “That doesn’t mean they’re going to know how to be physically active after they’re not mandated to do that anymore”
He also says physically active kids are more likely to succeed in school.
“The notion that kids who are unhealthy are going to be able to learn better is pretty flawed,” he says. “It makes sense to have kids who are physically educated. The chances of them performing better on standardized tests are probably higher.”