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“Loopholes” Depriving Children of Exercise

Public school children are not getting the amount of exercise they need because of “loopholes,” says a new report by the National Association of Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association (AHA). The report, Shape of the Nation, found that, though 75 percent of states mandate physical education (P.E.) most of these P.E. mandates do not establish minimum time requirements. Worse, nearly half allow exemptions, waivers and/or substitutions. “These ‘loopholes’ reduce the effectiveness of policy efforts to ensure the quality of physical education currently taught in the nation’s schools,” said NAPSE and the AHA in a joint press release.

“While other studies demonstrate the importance of quality physical education in helping students learn the necessary skills, knowledge and experiences they need to be physically active for a lifetime, the Shape of the Nation Report has been disclosing the inadequacies of physical education policies in this country since 1987,” said NASPE President Mary Jo Sariscsany, associate professor, California State University, Northridge, in the joint press release.

Nancy Brown, of the American Heart Association says, “The fact that kids are being deprived of physical education in school is unacceptable, especially in a nation suffering from a childhood obesity epidemic. Making physical activity a part of the daily routine is critical to saving the next generation of Americans from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other serious problems.” 

The report found that the majority of states mandate that students take physical education (43 states for elementary, 41 states for middle, and 44 states for high school). However, gaps exist in over half of these states. Thirty-three states permit schools and school districts to allow students to substitute other activities for their required physical education credit. Twenty-eight states allow schools or school districts to grant exemptions/waivers for physical education.

Read the full report here | Executive Summary | Quick Facts 

The report calls for parents to take a more active role in ensuring their children get the necessary amount of P.E. time, but perhaps there is a role for clubs as well. Health clubs have an opportunity to help offset the limited physical education being offered at school. Currently, more than 22 percent of commercial health clubs offer children-specific programming and nearly 20 percent offer a kids-only section of the club. Together, health clubs serve more than 4.8 million members under the age of 18. Also, the number of children using health clubs has increased by 108 percent since 1990 and the number of first time health club members under the age of 18 has doubled in ten years.

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