To the editor:
As summer winds down and children prepare to go back to school, consider the value of physical activity before, during and after the school day. Physical activity not only supports good health but also promotes good grades. Studies show that physical activity improves academic performance.
The New York State Education Department has set standards for physical education based on research evidence. These standards include daily PE classes for children in grades kindergarten to third and PE class three times per week for children in elementary school grades four through six. The minimum number of minutes of PE for these grades is 120 minutes per week. Middle school grades five through six can have PE classes based on the fourth-through-sixth-grade model or follow the high school requirement of PE class two days per week in one semester and three days per week in the opposite semester.
In many of our local school districts, PE classes have suffered cuts to staffing, time allotment and resources. The rationale behind these cuts may include a desire to divert PE time and resources to core subjects. This action, however, has not been proven to yield the desired results. Increasing physical activity and improving physical fitness, however, have both been shown to improve cognition, increase test scores, improve behavior and reduce absenteeism. It is imperative that we find a way to keep physical education a priority in our schools. In addition, parents can help increase activity levels for children by encouraging them to walk or bicycle to and from school and to be active in after-school hours. For more information, visit www.wheresmype.com.
Healthy Schools NY