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Mandatory Physical Education Linked to Student Fitness

From guest blogger Hannah Rose Sacks

Does physical education really make a difference in student health? Apparently so.

Students are more likely to be physically fit when the school requires mandatory physical education, reports a new study in this month's issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

The study, headed by Emma V. Sanchez-Vaznaugh, examined district-level compliance in California with physical education policies for 5th grade students. California law requires physical education for students in grades 1 through 6, with a total of 200 minutes of physical activity every 10 days, reports Health Behavior News Service.

Of the 55 districts for which compliance data were available, only 28 met the state physical education mandates.

The researchers found that students in schools compliant with the physical education policy were 29 percent more likely to be physically fit. The researchers measured fitness based on students' performance on a 1 mile run or walk test.

The study notes that there are barriers to compliance. If adequate funding for physical education and compliance monitoring were available, schools and districts might better be able to comply, reports Health Behavior News Service.

Sanchez-Vaznaugh urges parents, educators, policy makers, and schools to get involved in finding ways to help schools comply with physical education laws. She emphasizes the importance of creating a school and community culture that emphasizes children's health, underscoring the important role physical education plays.

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