Many states have mandated a minimum number of hours of physical education to increase activity levels for students, but a study co-authored by a University of Iowa professor says about two-thirds of schools don’t meet those requirements.
The study, co-authored by assistant professor of economics David Frisvold, sought to examine how states’ physical education requirements affected obesity levels for elementary students. It measured how much time students spent in P.E. classes, how much time they spent in physical activities outside of P.E. class and how much time they spent watching TV.
The study says school districts are not enforcing state-mandated P.E. requirements, because only 34 percent of students spent their state’s required amount of time in P.E. class.
“Only 17 percent of kindergartners spent the number of minutes in PE class required by their state, the study suggests, and only 45 percent of fifth graders did,” according to information from the study.
Some schools and school districts fight back, saying P.E. class time is reduced in favor of spending more time on subjects that appear on standardized tests.
Frisvold says the schools actually tend to increase the length of the school day instead of cutting academic class time.
Frisvold estimates mandating an additional 60 minutes of P.E. classes per week would lower the probability of youth obesity by five percent, and lower the students’ body mass index by 10 percent.