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Educators Want Mandatory Health, Physical Education in Schools, Survey Finds

By guest blogger Gina Cairney

A new survey from KidsHealth in the Classroom shows a majority of parents and educators are dissatisfied with health and physical education programs in schools.

Over 1,100 parents and K-12 educators took the online survey, in which a majority responded that health and physical education classes should be mandatory.

Almost all educators (99 percent) surveyed agreed that phsyical education should be a required class. The same percentage of educators surveyed said health class should be required in middle and high schools, while 93 percent thought it should be required in elementary schools, according to KidsHealth.

A majority of parents (87 percent) also thought middle and high school students should be required to take health and physical education, while 78 percent thought health, and 92 percent said physical education should be required at the elementary school level.

While the survey reveals strong support for mandatory health and physical education courses, educators and parents report that these classes, if the schools have them, are inadequate and not enough time is being devoted to the subjects.

In a comment on the survey, one educator wrote, "With the frightening rate of obesity among adults and children, it alarms me that more emphasis is not placed on health education."

Some parents also left comments, citing a lack of engagement in the courses, or students not taking physical education seriously and only taking the course as a way to pad their grade point average.

Another commented on the role parents can play in helping students maintain healthy lifestyles, which echoes First Lady Michelle Obama's keynote address at the Building a Healthier Future Summit last month.

"When it comes to the health of our kids, no one has a greater impact than each of us do as parents," said Mrs. Obama.

The survey results are similar to another surveyed released last year, which found a lack of exercise and obesity to be adults' main concerns regarding children's health.

Schools may not be primarily responsible for children's health, but as the American Academy of Pediatrics said in its policy statement last December, providing time for physical activity during the school day may help with not only combatting childhood obesity but also helping students become more engaged and attentive during class.

Another study published earlier this year found that mandatory physical education classes, activity breaks during the school day, and active commuting to schools can be the most effective ways in promoting physical activity in students.

The research on children's health and wellbeing suggests that fighting obesity and promoting overall health education will take a communitywide focus.

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