Last week, a bill in Delaware that would require a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity for all K-5 students passed the State Senate and moved on to the House. This bill, sponsored by Senator George Bunting, hits on an incredibly important point: schools today do not devote enough time to physical activity.
Since No Child Left Behind was first enacted a decade ago, schools have cut an average of 80 minutes – 40 from recess and 40 from physical education – of physical activity from each week. A recent CDC report on youth health showed that almost no schools require daily physical education and today, 12.5 million American adolescents are obese – a record high.
But the problem is understandable. Schools are trying to squeeze so much into an already cramped day, with an endless list of priorities from math instruction to reading interventions, from regular testing to field trips, from science and language to art and music. All of this takes time. It is no wonder that physical activity is squeezed out.
This Delaware bill hits on an important message: we need time for physical activity in schools each and every day. According to the Journal of Educational Research, even just 20 minutes of recess each day is proven to help students focus in class and perform at higher levels. The 150 minutes per week would expose typical Delaware students to over 90 hours of physical activity in school each year. This type of exposure would help to build a lifelong habit of exercise, and be a meaningful step in the war against childhood obesity.
But while we advocate for more physical activity in schools, it is equally important that we don’t sacrifice other priorities – that’s why expanding learning time is key. Should the Delaware bill become law, we hope that schools use this as an opportunity to expand time in order to provide their students with both a quality education and daily physical activity.