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, 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. 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. 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.