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Exercise Their Minds: The Call for Daily PE in Schools

Many Iowa parents support daily physical education as part of their child's school curriculum. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
Many Iowa parents support daily physical education as part of their child's school curriculum. (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture)
October 31, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa schools are being encouraged to help students exercise their minds.

State education leaders are creating an accountability plan to meet provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a new federal education law.

And health-related groups, including the American Heart Association, say daily physical education should be included.

Matt Tullis, project director of the Carol M. White federal physical education grant in Marshalltown, says there are many benefits to adding PE to the daily curriculum.

"Kids who are physically active do much better in school,” he maintains. “They have better attendance. They seem to enjoy themselves more, meaning they're more emotionally healthy. And when those things happen, then they achieve better."

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) research shows increased physical fitness levels can drive improvements in cognitive skills, behavior and test scores.

And Tullis adds it helps children avoid tobacco, and reduces their risks for insomnia, depression and anxiety.

Experts recommend at least 60 minutes of exercise daily to prevent heart disease and live longer.

And because children spend most of their day in class, Tullis says surveys show support for increasing physical activity during school hours.

"Ninety-five percent of parents with children under the age of 18 want physical education to be part of their child's curriculum,” he points out. “And more than half of those who were interviewed believe that their kids are not getting enough."

Iowa requires that physical education for students be taught in grades 1 through 12, but Tullis notes it isn't a daily requirement.

"Over the years, what has happened is that more has been added to schools' plates,” he states. “PE has been one area that's gotten pushed to the side a little bit, in lieu of academic offerings and mandates."

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of PE for elementary students, 225 minutes per week for middle school students, and that more schools make PE courses a requirement for high school graduation.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IA