Congressmen Bob Brady, D-Pa., Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Donald Payne, D-N.J., are among the lawmakers who have added their support to a bill designed to give kids more opportunities to exercise at school.
The bill is called the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act.
While the Pennsylvania State Education Association hasn’t taken a stand on the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act, spokesman Wythe Keever said educators across the state worry that a super-heightened focus on academics could hurt children’s health.
“Time and time again, they’ve expressed concern that the pressure exerted on schools through the federal No Child Left Behind Act to increase test scores in reading and math has resulted in some school districts taking what we think are misguided steps such as cutting back on recess and physical education,” Keever said.
The bill would require states to report on student physical activity including how much time kids spend in physical education class.
In Pennsylvania, the Department of Education posts physical education standards but doesn’t track children’s fitness levels, although many schools participate in the long-running President’s Challenge fitness test.
Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among the states that may push for major education changes this year; supporters of the FIT Kids Act want their ideas folded into those overhaul plans.
Nutrition and exercise expert Stella Volpe, who applauds the effort to build in exercise time at school, says that in order to make sure children stay fit, families need to add fitness to their schedule too.
“I’m going to say this a bit anecdotally and a bit from the scientific perspective. In general what has happened in schools, elementary on up to high schools — but not every school — is that the days that kids have physical education has decreased,” said Volpe, chairwoman of the department of Nutrition Sciences at Drexel University’s College of Nursing.
“It used to be every week, three days a week. Now it might be every other week, one or two days a week,” she said.
To make matters worse, Volpe says the amount of time kids actually spend exercising when they’re in gym class is often limited because of large class sizes and discipline problems.