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Report: More P.E. Will Help VA Students, Schools

A new report is adding momentum to the push for more physical eduction in Virginia schools. (Pedro Dias/Flickr/Wikimedia)
A new report is adding momentum to the push for more physical eduction in Virginia schools. (Pedro Dias/Flickr/Wikimedia)
April 21, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. - A new national report is adding momentum to the movement for more physical education in Virginia schools. A new law will boost K-5 physical activity requirements, but according to the 2016 Shape of the Nation report by SHAPE America and Voices for Healthy Kids, an initiative of the American Heart Association and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the state should expand physical education in all grades.

Fred Milbert, physical education teacher in Prince William County, and past president of the Virginia Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, wants lawmakers and the public to understand that sports, exercise and activity are more than just students doing jumping jacks. Milbert said it can help students become their better selves, socially, emotionally and physically, which shows up in the classroom.

"The many different things you can do: hiking, paddleboarding, swimming - all the things that are available to kids," he said. "Our students learn better when they're healthy, nutritionally and physically. And I think that should be a goal."

School administrators and lawmakers sometimes cut physical education to save money. Milbert argues that underestimates how it can reduce behavior problems such as bullying.

Student athletes such as seventh-grader Shakthi Ramasamy at Moody Middle School in Glen Allen talk about how physical activity helps their focus. He is on his school's tennis team and said playing improves his focus when he turns to other parts of his life.

"It moves my spirit as well," he added. "You feel better about yourself. Helps you burn energy off, so when you want to go work and study, you have more patience. You're ready to do it."

Milbert said he's seen students in his classes change for the better, in ways that can last for life.

"It's learning about how they can make healthy decisions about their lives," he said. "Fifty, 60, 70 kids at one time all cooperating in a classroom. But they're all working on their personal growth, not to meet somebody else's expectations."

The full report can be found here.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA