Guest Blogger: Amanda Cahill, Montana Government Relations Director
February is Heart Month which has me thinking about the health of Montana kids’ hearts. One way to help children stay healthy is through the Physical Education (PE) classes taught in schools. Did you know that there’s no requirement for elementary schools to have any minimum amount of PE time? That means some kids in MT are only getting 30 minutes of PE per week. This number is too low for many reasons.
Physical activity is essential for children, and PE offers a structured way to teach them how to be active. Studies show that school-based physical activity correlates with improved academic performance and leads to overall healthier children with lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Additionally, increased activity leads to better academic performance.
When children sit too long, their brains simply aren’t getting enough oxygen to stay active and enable them to learn. According to the Society of Behavioral Medicine, “exercise increases the levels of neurotransmitters associated with increased mood and decreased stress, along with improving the neuroplasticity (the ability to learn) of brain cells.” Montana children deserve a better chance at staying healthy, active, and increasing their ability to learn.
What can we do about it? Professional health organizations, including the AHA, advocate for at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day. In order to help children achieve that level, it would be ideal for schools to offer at least 150 minutes of Physical Education per week.
You can get involved in several ways; encouraging your local school boards to enact a policy to ensure 150 minutes of PE in elementary schools per week, talking to principals about gradually increasing the number of PE minutes in schools near you, or writing to the Board of Public Education and asking them to make this a state-wide requirement. The AHA, along with SHAPE Montana (The Society of Health and Physical Educators), have been working on this issue by asking health leaders around Montana to write letters of support with the intent of taking the request to the Board of Public Education and the Office of Public Instruction. If you’d like to get involved please email Amanda Cahill; firstname.lastname@example.org.