This post reflects a compensated editorial partnership with Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
From the time my son Derek was around 1, I knew he was a great big ball of energy. I distinctly remember going to a friend’s house who had a daughter the same age as Derek. We would meet up with the kids, sip coffee and talk about how we worried we might never sleep again. I distinctly remember three moments from that day: 1) I had to chase Derek around the house the whole time, 2) Derek locked himself in the dog crate and 3) my friend was the only one sipping coffee as her daughter sat quietly on the play mat and chewed on her teething toys. I realized then that Derek needed to be in situations where he could get out his energy, safely, in order for him to then be able to focus.
During the 5 years that Derek was in daycare he thrived. He played in circle time, rotated to different centers and had an abundance of outdoor and indoor playtime. When it came time for Derek to enter public school I became anxious about his ability to sit still in a classroom all day. I knew that Derek would need the opportunity to stretch, move and jump around, in addition to changes in the atmosphere and breaks in the day from the monotony of the classroom environment. Recess and PE became a necessity in Derek’s day. This inspired me to find out more about physical education in public schools and more specifically our local elementary school. In NJ, where we live, Physical Education is mandated by the state – twice a week for forty minutes and recess is daily for 30 minutes.
Even with PE twice a week, I wish there was more. According to Voices for Healthy Kids, “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.” I see with Derek that once he expends some energy he is able to focus on academic tasks. It helps Derek to not call out as much, sit still for longer periods of time and focus on the teacher.
Despite the benefits, PE programs have been decreasing around the country. Only 4% of elementary, 8% of middle, and 2% of high schools provide daily physical education, or its equivalent, for the entire school year. More than half of high school students don’t attend any physical education classes in any of their grades. This is sadly a trend that is likely to continue, or even worsen.
- Do you know if your kids are getting enough PE? Protect PE by joining the PE Action Team at voicesforhealthykids.org/PE
- Want to learn more about how you can work to increase PE in your community? Visit http://physicaleducation.voicesforhealthykids.org/