PE mandates have mixed success in fighting childhood obesity

Aug. 27, 2013, Iowa

By Tom Snee

A study by a University of Iowa economist finds that increased physical education (PE) requirements help reduce obesity among fifth grade boys, but fifth grade girls showed little change.

Childhood obesity has risen dramatically in recent decades, prompting public health officials and policy makers to advocate increased physical activity time for elementary school children. In response, many state legislatures have mandated students take a minimum number of hours of physical education in school to increase their activity and introduce them to better fitness habits.

A study co-authored by David Frisvold, assistant professor of economics in the Tippie College of Business [at the University of Iowa], is one of the first to examine how states’ physical education requirements affect childhood obesity in elementary school. The study uses data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study, a survey of thousands of students annually. One item it measures is Body Mass Index (BMI), and Frisvold’s study uses the body mass index (BMI) of students who entered kindergarten in fall 1998. Continue reading