Local News

Decline In Physical Education Can Take An Academic Toll On Kids

Posted May 1, 2001 8:55 a.m. EDT

— North Carolina students are hitting the books harder than ever to do well on end-of-grade tests, but their bodies may be paying a price. A decline in physical education may be taking an academic toll.

By the end of her day, Ashley Smith is pretty tired. Her day has been full of math, reading and writing and her parents worry about it.

"You put kids in a classroom all day long and don't give them an outlet for that energy," says parent Chris Smith. "They can't sit still in their seats. It makes it tough for them to focus and concentrate on their academics."

Physical education classes give kids a boost of energy and blows off stress. Everyone agrees it is good for kids, but there is one problem -- they are not getting enough time for P.E.

"They get P.E., I think, 20 minutes a week, and I don't think that is sufficient. I know when I was in school we had it every day," Smith says.

The state recommends 30 minutes of formal activity a day, but it is just advice and not a rule.

"In Person County, they have daily physical education. In Wake County, we see our children one day a week for 30 minutes," says Artie Kamiya, a health and P.E. supervisor.

Wake County supports the First in Fitness program. The program offers select students a chance to get the President's Physical Fitness Medal. It also provides a chance to show how fit they are.

The kids in the program have rippling muscles and flushed faces, but experts say too many other kids are parked in front of a TV or video game. One study shows they may learn their sedentary behavior from grown-ups.

"North Carolina in adult fitness was dead last and we need to do something about that," Kamiya says.

Ashley's parents decided to take their children's fitness program into their own hands. Twice a week, they leave school and head to places to rev up their motors.

"We make them go outside as much as possible. My daughter is in dance, and my son plays athletics: basketball and baseball," Smith says.

Kamiya tells parents to ask your child's principal to offer burst breaks around 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each school day. Allowing kids to briefly move around and stretch may not make for a stronger heart, but it does allow kids a break that helps them pay attention.