Schools must get physical, healthy
Albert J. Marro / Staff File Photo
Rutland High School students Allie Wolf, right, and Laura Hewitt exercise on opening day of field hockey practice last August.
The Vermont Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, a statewide association of education and physical activity professionals, is concerned about the inadequate time dedicated toward physical education and health education in Vermont schools.
The association is asking the Vermont Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules to consider the following two recommendations regarding physical education and health education requirements in Vermont public schools.
First, schools should continue to offer physical education two days a week for every grade level, including for all four years of high school, with a minimum graduation requirement of no less than one and a half years.
The National Association for Sports and Physical Education (NASPE) recommends that students in elementary school participate in at least 150 minutes of physical education weekly and students in middle and high school participate in at least 225 minutes weekly.
The new education quality standards must ensure a minimum time requirement that approaches these NSPE recommendations.
Second, we are asking the committee to direct the Vermont Board of Education to establish guidelines directing that health education be taught every year in grades K-12. Again, this content should be taught by a health education specialist, as required in 16 V.S.A § 165.
Why address health education and physical education as priorities in our schools? Consider the alarming health trends in Vermont.
In Vermont, 58 percent of adults are either overweight or obese, and for our children the statewide average has risen to 29 percent. These numbers are on the rise, not the decline.
Researchers have estimated that by 2030, if trends continue, obesity-related medical costs alone could rise by $48 billion to $66 billion a year in the United States. By 2030, obesity-related health care costs in Vermont could climb by 20.3 percent.
Could quality health and quality physical education be a part of the complicated answer to our state’s health crisis? The answer is yes.
Quality physical education programs help all students develop health-related fitness, physical competence, cognitive understanding, and positive attitudes about physical activity so that they can adopt healthy and physically active lifestyles.
Students who are physically active and do not engage in unhealthy dietary behaviors receive higher grades than their classmates who are physically inactive and engage in unhealthy dietary behaviors. An active and healthy student is a better student.
Only quality physical education and quality health education, embedded as an academic subject into the school day, and taught by competent, caring professionals, can assure equitable opportunities for all students to become healthy Vermonters.
Lisa A. Pleban is executive director of the Vermont Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance. She is a professor of physical education teacher education at Castleton State College. Greg Carpenter does advocacy for the same association. He is a physical education teacher at the Swanton Central School.