The American Heart Association strongly advocates for quality physical education as we believe the quality and quantity of physical education in our schools is an important part of a student’s comprehensive, well-rounded education program and a means of positively affecting life-long health and well-being. The AHA supports more frequent, quality physical education in all our schools.
A Startling Statistic
According to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, nearly 50% of US adults and 65% of adolescents do not currently get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. And only 5% report any kind of vigorous activity. It’s no wonder the obesity rate among adults and children continues to soar. The obesity rate for American youth today is nearly 20% compared to 7% in 1980. With advances in technological and hand-devices, it’s not surprising that many youth are increasingly sedentary throughout their day, meeting neither physical education nor national physical activity recommendations.
The Current State of Affairs
Physical education in schools has been decreasing in recent years. Only 3.8% of elementary, 7.9% of middle, and 2.15% of high schools provide daily physical education or its equivalent for the entire school year. Sadly, twenty-two percent of schools do not require students to take any physical education at all.
Why Does P.E. Matter?
Increased time being physically active increases students’ aerobic and physical fitness. The benefits of a comprehensive school physical education curricula are experienced across diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups, among boys and girls, elementary and high school students, and in urban and rural settings. Studies show that physical education program can improve risk factors in students who are exhibiting early signs of chronic disease.
Physical fitness can have a positive impact on cognitive ability, avoiding tobacco use, and reducing insomnia, depression and anxiety. Physically fit children have higher scholastic achievement, better classroom behavior, greater ability to focus, and less absenteeism than their less fit peers.
The optimal physical education program enhances the physical, mental, social and emotional development of all children and helps them understand, improve, and maintain physical well-being. It is the cornerstone for other physical activity opportunities during the school day. We recommend 150 minutes per week of physical education at the elementary level, and 225 minutes per week of physical education at the middle and high school level.
What’s Happening in North Dakota?
The superintendent of schools has approved new P.E. standards for the state of North Dakota which took effect on August 1, 2015. These new standards will help integrate more activity and movement through the school day for North Dakota students. The standards will measure student’ competency and understanding in a wide variety of sports and physical activities. In addition to specific sports skill standards, there are also more conceptual requirements related to personal and social behavior, as well as standards for recognizing the relationship between physical activity and overall health and well-being.
The new P.E. standards will also include the instruction of CPR skills in the required High School P.E. curriculum. In addition, CPR skill instruction is within the 6 – 8th grade curriculum. The AHA strongly supports all students be required to learn the life-saving skill of hands-only CPR prior to high school graduation. The AHA has worked with legislators over the past 3 years and the last 2 sessions to gain support for CPR as a high school graduation requirement. With strong funding support by the legislature, now every student in North Dakota will have the opportunity to learn how to save a life. The new P.E. standards inclusion of CPR as a core skill provided an excellent place for this instruction to occur. The AHA applauds the efforts of P.E. teachers and the Regional Education Associations for their leadership on improving P.E. standards and including CPR instruction in those standards.