Despite incremental improvements made in the past four years, physical education programs at schools across the country are significantly inadequate, according to a report released today by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association (AHA).
The report (.pdf) provides a snapshot of fitness programs in the American public school system and is comprised of survey information from P.E. coordinators in all 50 state education agencies and the District of Columbia. Here are some of the more significant findings:
- Nationwide, fewer than one-third of all children ages 6 to 17 engage in vigorous activity, defined as participating in physical activity for at least 20 minutes that made the child sweat and breathe hard
- Only five states (Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Vermont) require physical education in every grade level.
- Only Alabama aligns with NASPE and AHA recommended guidelines that schools provide 150 minutes per week, or 30 minutes per day, of instructional physical education for elementary school children, and 225 minutes per week, or 45 minutes per day, for middle and high school students for the entire school year.
- Forty-three percent of states (22) allow required physical education credits to be earned through online physical education courses.
- According to one survey, nearly all parents (95%) think that regular daily physical activity helps children do better academically and should be part of a school curriculum for all students in grades K-12.
In considering these findings, note that the NASPE and AHA guidelines are less strict than the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendation that children ages 6 to 17 participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily.