COLUMBUS, Ohio - Students across the nation would benefit from stronger physical education requirements, but most states are dropping the ball on keeping kids active, according to a new report from Voices for Healthy Kids.
Dr. Stephen Daniels, an American Academy of Pediatrics fellow, says physical education programs in schools teach children lifelong skills and have a positive impact on their physical, mental and emotional health.
"One factor that is often lost in the discussion is that kids who are able to be active during the day actually learn better and ultimately perform better on various academic skills including standardized tests," Daniels says.
The study ranks Ohio in the middle of the pack on keeping children fit. The state requires students to take PE in grades K-through-eight, but doesn't set a minimum number of minutes of exercise.
National guidelines recommend children get at least an hour a day of moderate to intense physical activity.
Daniels says since children spend more than half of their waking hours in school it's a perfect place, particularly for children from low-income families, to get the exercise they need.
"Some of the kinds of opportunities that might be available to families that have greater means," says Daniels. "Belonging to fitness centers and gyms and other sorts of things - really aren't available broadly to families across the country."
The report found nationally, 32 percent of children are obese or overweight. Daniels says improving the state's policies on PE standards is a good investment, because getting children into healthy habits today will lead to healthier adults tomorrow.