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MN Lawmakers Consider New Gym Class Standards for Kids

Minnesota students could see changes to their gym classes if advocates for more physical activity in schools prevail in the Legislature. (iStockphoto)
Minnesota students could see changes to their gym classes if advocates for more physical activity in schools prevail in the Legislature. (iStockphoto)
March 16, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Children's health advocates want to see stronger standards for physical education in Minnesota schools. Hundreds of volunteers are at the State Capitol today for a Senate Education Hearing to show support for a bill that would adopt new grade-specific benchmarks.

Almost a quarter of the state's high school juniors are overweight or obese, said Sen. Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, a prime sponsor of the legislation, Senate File 343. She argued that improving gym class standards could help curb that trend.

"It gets them moving during the school day, which makes them healthier, and it also actually really helps them be more effective during the school day," she said. "And then it gives them lifelong skills and knowledge to help them stay healthy the rest of their lives."

About 28 organizations, including the American Heart Association, are backing SF 343 as part of the Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition. The group has said the state's benchmarks for physical-education classes haven't been updated since 2004.

A 2014 survey also found that Minnesota's K-through-12 schools are not using the current standards consistently. Kent said some schools are providing more PE classes than others. Her bill would give schools more information to help set up and evaluate their physical-education curriculum.

"The research is so loud and clear," she said. "When we talk about the achievement gap, when we talk about students succeeding and when we talk about the health costs of unhealthy kids, the return on investment for this is just monumental."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that students spend at least an hour five days a week on physical activity. The latest Minnesota Student Survey, from 2010, shows that less than half of high school seniors are getting that much exercise.

The text of SF 343 is online at revisor.mn.gov.

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN