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Missouri Schools Urged to Step Up Physical Education

Missouri children need more exercise according to the latest "Shape of the Nation" report. (Kevin Patrick Allen)
Missouri children need more exercise according to the latest "Shape of the Nation" report. (Kevin Patrick Allen)
April 18, 2016

ST. LOUIS – The American Heart Association (AHA) and Shape America have released a report on how much physical activity children are getting, and the study found in many states, Missouri included, that exercise is lacking.

AHA spokeswoman Karen Englert says children aren't doing enough to stay healthy.

She says some school districts in Missouri count recess as the exercise for the day, but she stresses that's not enough, and it's not the right kind of activity.

"Anybody who's been at a school or has kids knows that some kids during recess, they sit,” she points out. “They don't participate, because they don't have to. And for us it's very important that the kids have a designated number of minutes per week of actual high quality physical education taught by a certified teacher."

The report recommends that states require elementary students get 150 minutes of high quality physical education per week, and middle and high school students 225 minutes each week.

Missouri only requires 50 minutes a week for elementary age children.

Englert says not only do school districts have to add more exercise, they've got to find a way to pay for it.

"Just like a lot of other states that we struggle with, in Missouri it's funding,” she explains. “New and different things are needed to kind of keep the kids engaged, but sometimes that requires new equipment, and unfortunately the funding is not there."

Missouri high school students only have to earn 1 unit of credit in physical education in order to graduate. Englert says that number needs to increase.

She says despite research that shows physical activity improves brain function and student achievement, school systems across the nation have reduced time in the gym.

"They learn better, they focus better in class, they feel better,” she stresses. “They achieve more."

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO