MDs for PE

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Physical Education in America: An Overview

Physical education has been an integral part of the education system in the United States since the late 1800s. Its role in intervening and promoting physical activity at a young age is critical to forming healthy habits that will benefit students into adulthood. Physical activity has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and some cancers. With these benefits in mind, it is clear that physical education can play a vital role in combating some of the national trends in childhood health. Obesity among 6-11 year olds has risen from 6.5% to 19.6%  between 1980 and 2008 and despite this alarming trend, little has been done to ensure that adequate physical education is part of the curriculum in elementary education. Between 2012 and 2016 the number of states requiring elementary school physical education dropped from 43 to 39. Of the 39 states requiring physical education, only 6 states require the AHA recommended 150 minutes per week. Many states (62%) also allow waivers permitting students to forgo physical education if they participate in another sport or activity. These loose regulations on physical education allow it to become a victim in curriculum changes and school budget cuts, limiting physical education’s capacity to make a meaningful public health impact.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Advocacy at UWSMPH

UWSMPH students Nick Bohrer, Jessica Chung, and Ty Grunow discussed Senate bill 774, which would mandate physical education in schools 5 days a week, at the Capital Building in Madison today. The students advocated for the public health benefits of daily physical education in terms of future health care cost reductions, improved academic performance, and social well being. They also shared personal anecdotes, outlining the role that physical education played in developing their identities, instilling confidence, and improving relationships. The bill was argued against because it required schools to expand services without providing additional funding. Do you think that daily physical education is something we should be funding? Tell us what you think in the comments section below!

Kid Friendly Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers are becoming more and more popular among adults, but can they help kids stay active too? It can be hard to keep track of how much kids are moving, and new fitness trackers made just for them can make it not only fun, but encourage healthy behaviors too.

We know that keeping kids moving for at least 60 minutes a day can help them stay healthy, happy, and do better in school, but how do we keep track of that over a busy day in and out of school? It can be hard to know how much your child has been moving throughout the school day.

Fitness trackers made just for kids may be the answer. Even some schools (and even colleges [1]) are using these devices. Patrick Henry Elementary School in Arlington, VA uses an activity monitor called the Squord PowerBand, which has been popularly received, with students so eager to earn points that some are wearing the band at night [2].

What options are available for kid-friendly activity trackers? One popular choice is the UNICEF Kid Power Bands, which are sold exclusively at Target. Target donates $10 of the $39.99 purchase price to UNICEF, and kids earn points by moving and going on "missions" through the free mobile app, which are then converted to funding to provide lifesaving food to malnourished children around the world. More info can be found here.


How can public schools help improve youth physical activity?

Schools should play an integral role in the physical and mental health of our children. Click here to see how the CDC thinks your local school system can contribute.

Student Opinion on Gym Classes

We Need Gym Class Every Day
Student Opinion: Garrett Donaldson

Ask almost any kid what their favorite class is in elementary school, and they’ll tell you it’s gym (after lunch and recess, of course). That’s just because they get to run around and don’t actually learn anything, right? After looking into what scientists and researchers and other people who look into these things have found, it turns out that gym classes are actually good for kids’ learning, even in other classes like math and science!

I’m not in elementary school any more, and I don’t have any kids who are either, but I’d like to think it’s a good thing for those kids to have time in gym every day. PE teaches kids how to take care of their bodies, promotes healthy lifestyles, and helps prevent obesity (which we have all heard is a problem according to the news).

I also remember when I was a kid, my friends and I would get in trouble during class quite a bit because we weren’t able to sit still. We wanted to be moving around and play! While that behavior isn’t a good thing in the classroom, it’s part of being a kid. Why shouldn’t we give kids the opportunity for a part of the day to be kids and move around, especially if they are able to be learning through playing? I think that’s the main benefit of gym classes—let kids be kids while teaching them valuable life lessons.

Garrett is a current medical student at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health

Fact Sheet on Wisconsin Physical Education

The Society of Health and Physical Educators (SHAPE America) recommends that elementary schools have 30 minutes of physical education each day. In Wisconsin elementary schools are required to have physical education at least 3 days a week. For more information on Wisconsin physical education and the benefits of physical education in schools see the SHAPE America Wisconsin Fact Sheet.

Lack of Outside Play Areas Highlight Need for Physical Education in Schools

In a study by the National Survey of Children's Health, they found that Wisconsin is the second-worst state in providing areas for physical activities. Only 33.8% of children have a park, community center or walking path within their neighborhood. This provides strong evidence supporting physical education in schools since the majority of children do not have easy physical activity access at home.