Despite a state requirement that public middle and high school students get 400 minutes of physical education every 10 days, approximately 1.3 million more than a third (38 percent) of all adolescents enrolled in California public schools do not participate in any school-based physical education classes, according to a new policy brief from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
Research has shown that a lack of physical activity is associated with obesity, diabetes and other chronic conditions, while regular physical activity is associated with increased mental alertness and higher academic achievement.
Cuts to physical education (PE) programs, as well as exemptions that allow high school students to skip up to two years of PE, have contributed to declining participation in these school-based programs, the brief's authors noted. The study found, for example, that the proportion of teens participating in PE drops precipitously with age, from 95 percent at age 12 to just 23 percent at age 17.
Using data from the 2007 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS), the authors found that only 42 percent of California teens report participating in PE on a daily basis. And more than 80 percent of all teens fail to meet the current federal recommendations for physical activity.
"California teens don't get enough exercise," said Dr. Allison Diamant, a faculty associate with the center and a UCLA associate adjunct professor of general internal medicine and health services, who co-authored the policy brief, "Adolescent Physical Education and Physical Activity in California."
"Physical activity doesn't just keep the body healthy and prevent diabetes and obesity," Diamant said, "it also feeds the mind. Exercise is an education tool."
Diamant noted that PE classes are especially important to urban teens who may lack access to parks or other safe recreational spaces.
"Kids need to move more, a
|Contact: Gwen Driscoll|
University of California - Los Angeles