Earlier this month, the American Heart Association testified on a bill before the Education Committee.
The bill, LD 378, An Act To Promote Physical Activity for Schoolchildren, sponsored by Sen. Rebecca Millett (D- Cape Elizabeth), would require schools to provide 30 minutes of physical activity for grades K-5. It also would not allow schools to withhold that activity as a punishment.
We supported the bill in concept, but asked for a very important change and used the opportunity to educate our lawmakers on the difference between physical activity and physical education. We often hear lawmakers use the two terms interchangeably. They are both critical, but are different things altogether. Also, the bill, as originally written, would allow the 30-minute physical activity requirement be satisfied in PE. We don’t agree. PE time is already too limited and we don’t want a school to cut into valuable instruction time as an easy way out. There are plenty of other ways to fulfill 30 minutes of physical activity.
Here are two excerpts from our testimony:
Physical education and physical activity are both important. They work together to develop students' knowledge, skills, and confidence to be physically active for a lifetime[i], but there is a distinct difference between the two. School physical education programs teach students the skills and knowledge needed to establish and sustain an active lifestyle. An effective physical education program provides learning opportunities, appropriate instruction, and meaningful and challenging content for all children. Physical activity is bodily movement of any type and may include recreation, recess, fitness and sports activities, as well as daily activities such as walking to school or taking the stairs.
Regular physical activity is associated with a healthier, longer life and with a lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, mental health problems, and even some cancers[ii] [iii] [iv] [v]. But, it doesn’t stop there. These benefits extend into the classroom, too. Studies have shown that active children perform better in school, behave better in the classroom, and have a greater ability to focus[vi]. Because physical activity improves academic performance, it can also become an important strategy to address health disparities, like childhood obesity, and the achievement gap.
We were happy to support this bill and will let you know if our amendment was accepted and if we can support the bill as it continues its journey through the legislative process.
[i] Pate, RR., et al. Promoting physical activity in children and youth a leadership role for schools: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Metabolism (Physical Activity Committee) in collaboration with the councils on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young and Cardiovascular Nursing.2006. Circulation 114.11: 1214-1224.
[ii] Andersen, LB, et al. Cycling to school and cardiovascular risk factors: a longitudinal study.2011. Journal of Physical Activity and Health 8.8: 1025-1033.
[iii] Ekelund, U, et al. Moderate to vigorous physical activity and sedentary time and cardiometabolic risk factors in children and adolescents.2012. JAMA 307.7): 704-712.
[iv] Institute of Medicine. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. 2013. Available at: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=18314 Accessed on April 28, 2015.
[v] Eyre H, et al. American Cancer S, American Diabetes A and American Heart A. Preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes: a common agenda for the American Cancer Socie-ty, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association. 2004. Circula-tion;109:3244-55.
[vi] Institute of Medicine. Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School. 2013. Available at: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=18314 Accessed on April 28, 2015.