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Study Urges More Physical Education

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Although national studies have shown that children are not getting enough exercise, only four states require students to take physical-education classes in all grades, according to a new survey.

"There are simply not enough quality daily physical-education programs across the country to enable our children to learn how to keep themselves healthy and maintain a basic level of physical fitness,'' concludes the study, conducted by the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.

The association released preliminary results of the survey, "The Shape of the Nation: A Survey of Physical Education Requirements,'' in Washington last week. The final report is scheduled to be published this summer.

The study follows a recent medical report that found that an increasing number of American children are obese and are leading sedentary lives. (See Education Week, June 3, 1987.)

According to the survey, only one state, Illinois, requires students to take gym classes every day. Only five states require elementary-school students to take at least 150 minutes of exercise classes per week, and only six states require students to participate in gym classes during all four years of high school.

Twenty-two states, it found, require students to take physical education for only one year during high school.

The association recommends that elementary-school students receive 30 minutes of physical instruction every day, and that high-school students have 45 to 55 minutes of physical education a day.

Peggy Seiter, who conducted the survey, said many elementary schools erroneously count recess as a physical-education class period.

The danger in that practice, she said, is that, "left to their own devices on the playground, kids never reach a high enough level of activity to get any cardiovascular benefits.''

At last week's press conference, U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, Democrat of New Mexico, announced that he planned to introduce legislation to create an office of school health education in the Education Department. The measure calls for the awarding of $20 million in federal grant money to state and local governments to improve health and physical education in the nation's schools.--E.F.

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