The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a new study, “Educating the Student Body: Taking Physical Activity and Physical Education to School,” reviewing the current status of physical activity and physical education in the school environment. The report issued today comes on the heels of last year’s IOM report, “Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention: Solving the Weight of the Nation,” which yielded two key goals to accelerate the progress made in obesity prevention through increased physical activity: to make physical activity an integral and routine part of life, and to make schools a national focal point for obesity prevention.
Today’s study draws on these two goals by evaluating and identifying a variety of recommendations for strengthening and improving programs and policies for physical activity and physical education. The study reviews the various influences that physical activity and physical education have over a child’s physical, cognitive and brain, and psychosocial health and development.
More specifically, given that young people spend much of their time in school, the IOM believes school is a critical environment in which positive change can be implemented. The IOM recommends:
Today’s IOM report release coincided with a flurry of legislative action regarding physical activity, including the introduction in the Senate of the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act, and the House introduction of the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act and the Promoting Health for Youth Skills in Classrooms and in Life (PHYSICAL) Act.
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Representative Kind (D-WI), and Representative Aaron Schock (R-IL) introduced the FIT Kids Act, which would strengthen physical education programs to help enable schools to implement quality, evidence-based programs. Among other aspects, the legislation would establish a framework for schools to assess the quality and quantity of PE they are providing, and better inform parents regarding the PE their kids are receiving.
In addition, the Physical Activity Guidelines for America Act was introduced in the House by Congressman Kind and Congressman Schock. The companion legislation was introduced by Senator Harkin and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) in March. The bill would set a 10 year cycle for review of the National Physical Activity Guidelines based on the most current scientific evidence and require a second report midway through each cycle to highlight best practices and emerging issues in the physical activity arena. Keeping the Guidelines updated will ensure that Americans have the most up-to-date information they need to keep healthy by being active.
Finally, the PHYSICAL Act, introduced in the Senate last February, has a House companion bill, which was introduced today by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Congressman Jared Polis (D-CO), and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA). The bill would classify health and physical education as core subjects within the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, allowing them to be eligible for federal funding under Title I and Title II.
“The release of the IOM Report and the introduction of these signature physical activity bills set the stage for meaningful reforms of our education system and will encourage implementation of up-to-date, evidence-based strategies and interventions which are proven to combat inactivity among our children,” said Scott Goudeseune, President of NCPPA. “NCPPA is looking forward to working with and being a resource for Congress in passing legislation that can ensure the physical activity needs of our nation – particularly our youth - are being met.”