Lawmakers in the state of Minnesota are reviewing options to upgrade the physical education standards to aid in academic achievement and overall fitness and health. Organizations like the American Cancer Society, Healthy Kids Coalition and American Heart Association are behind the push to boost the programs hoping to reduce obesity rates among students and foster the development of healthy habits for life.
Parents testified at the Senate Education Committee, arguing that physical activity has been shown to heighten brain activity in adolescents. They called for an update to the PE benchmarks in the statewide education system adding that the current benchmarks have not been reviewed since 2004.
Currently the national standard for physical education is 150 minutes per week of class time with only one in five Kindergarten through Fourth grade schools meeting the standard. Even more concerning is that less than 20 percent of middle schools require physical education at all during the entire school year.
Advocates for additional PE time and fitness testing are hoping to boost physical activity for students now and as they age.
Opponents feel that adding more PE time will only make something else suffer, stating that the typical high school student is already overscheduled. They also fear PE time will take away from time for elective courses.
The bill being submitted would prevent schools from depriving children of recess time as a form of punishment. Sen. Vicky Jensen of Owatonna believes that withholding physical activity for children sends the wrong message. Parents agreed, pointing out that being unable to release energy during recess can add to concentration problems among children. Brain scans were also shown to lawmakers showing that children who had been active 20 minutes prior had higher brain activity than those who hadn’t.