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American Heart Association says 2012 Shape of the Nation Report Reveals State Loopholes, Stalling Progress of Physical Education Programs

Gaps exist in more than half of states

American Heart AssociationNashville, TN – The 2012 Shape of the Nation Report: Status of Physical Education in the USA, released today by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) and the American Heart Association, finds that while 74.5 percent of states mandate physical education in elementary through high school, most still fail to require a specific amount of instructional time and nearly half allow exemptions, waivers, and/or substitutions.

These “loopholes” reduce the effectiveness of policy efforts to ensure the quality of physical education currently taught in the nation’s schools.

In Tennessee, the law requires a minimum of ninety (90) minutes of physical activity per week into the instructional school day for elementary and secondary school students. Physical education is a required subject for Tennessee students in grades K-8 and Lifetime Wellness and Physical Education is a requirement for graduation. Each district has a Coordinated School Health Coordinator, and at the state level, the Tennessee Department of Education is required to hire a state coordinator and specialist in physical education through the Office of Coordinated School Health.The Coordinated School Health program in Tennessee is regarded as a national model.

Exemptions or waivers are not allowed in Tennessee, and online courses cannot be used for physical education requirements – unlike in a number of states.

“The fact that kids are being deprived of physical education in school is unacceptable, especially in a nation suffering from a childhood obesity epidemic,” said Nancy Brown, American Heart Association CEO. “Making physical activity a part of the daily routine is critical to saving the next generation of Americans from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other serious problems.”

The report found that the majority of states mandate that students take physical education (43 states for elementary, 41 states for middle, and 44 states for high school). However, gaps exist in over half of these states. Thirty-three states permit schools and school districts to allow students to substitute other activities for their required physical education credit. Twenty-eight states allow schools or school districts to grant exemptions/waivers for physical education.

The American Heart Association advocates for more frequent, quality physical education in all schools. Quality physical education will engage students in health-promoting physical activity for at least half of class time and teach them the knowledge and skills necessary for lifelong physical activity.

NASPE and the American Heart Association recommend that schools provide 150 minutes per week/30 minutes per day of instructional physical education for elementary school children, and 225 minutes per week/45 minutes per day for middle and high school students for the entire school year. Currently, no states follow these nationally recommended guidelines at all levels. The complete list of physical education program recommendations is included in the full report.

The report can be found at www.naspeinfo.org/shapeofthenation .


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