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Health Team

Group proposes making gym an honors class

Posted May 19, 2010 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated May 19, 2010 7:21 p.m. EDT

— One out of every three North Carolina teenagers is overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet North Carolina high school students are only required to have one year of physical education.

At Enloe High School in Raleigh, freshmen spend about 47 minutes a day in gym class.

“A lot of my friends are really in shape and they have their sport that they do and eat healthy. But then, there are some of my friends that eat all the time and go home and watch TV,” freshman Emma Klein said.

According to a study by the state Department of Public Instruction, 55 percent of high school students in North Carolina get less than the recommended 60 minutes of exercise five days a week, the level health experts say is needed to help ward off obesity

“I know students right now that have been diagnosed with diabetes,” Enloe physical education teacher Rebecca Clark said.

Clark said gym class offers students a chance to find at least one recreational activity they can do for life.

“We advocate cardiovascular endurance. We advocate flexibility. We advocate muscular endurance. We try to make sure kids are doing things within the classroom setting that’s also fun,” she said.

After freshman year, though, the interest in physical education often fades.

“They take only what’s required and the numbers drop off dramatically,” said Rob Morrow, with the North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

"No Child Left Behind actually impacted us, in the fact that it left physical education out of the core requirements," he said.

NCAAHPERD is a group of health and physical educators across the state proposing honors status for physical education in an attempt to attract college–bound students to the classes.

House Bill 901 would create an honors physical education course. It has already passed the House and is expected to be considered by the Senate during the current session of the General Assembly. If it passes, students could get honors credit for classes like exercise physiology or sports medicine. Students enrolling in these courses would also have a chance to boost their GPA by taking the course, because grades would be weighted on a 5-point scale instead of a traditional 4-point scale.

“We’re looking to put courses that are just as rigorous, just as relevant, to their overall lifestyle,” Clark said.

In Clark's classes, she said data is a good motivator. By measuring body mass index, students can see changes from the start of the school year.

“It’s a life commitment. It’s something you just don’t want to blow off because you only get the one body, one mind,” she said.

The North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health and Physical Education is partnering with the Department of Public Instruction on an obesity prevention program. It is for kindergarten through eighth grade.

Sixty-five school districts in North Carolina have the program, which is made possible through private grants. Wake County schools will start the program this fall. Organizers are hoping to extend it into high schools.