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Some Montana schools make kids health a priority

This year 10 schools across Montana are engaged in a pilot program to get kids the recommended amount of exercise.  These schools have stepped up training for their classroom teachers to engage kids in 150 minutes of Physical Education (PE) every week.

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In return, the Office of Public instruction has agreed to pay each school a small stipend to support their work.  This stipend can be used for teacher training, activity equipment, or to meet other school needs.  Schools in Bozeman, Great Falls, Frenchtown, Butte, Browning, Sidney, Boxelder, Kalispell, West Yellowstone, and Red Lodge are all part of this pilot.  Data will be gathered from schools to watch for improved outcomes among children who receive more PE.  Of note, some schools participated in this program last year and saw great outcomes!  In fact, one school even hired an additional full time PE teacher because of the impact they saw in the students participating in more PE!

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. 

                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 all 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 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.  If you’d like to get involved please email Amanda Cahill; amanda.cahill@heart.org.

 

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