Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" and Physical Education

Probably because I've been thinking about the cuts to Ann Arbor Public Schools' sports teams, I particularly noticed this article in Health Affairs Blog: Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move" Is Losing Its Footing. In this article, Amitai Etzioni argues that while Michelle Obama's 'Let's Move' program is predicated on both nutrition and exercise, most of the reaction to it has focused only on the diet/nutrition piece.

And here is the shocking part:
Thus, as the program evolved, the focus turned to caloric intake and not expenditure.

We were unable to find much evidence about implementing the exercise parts of the Let’s Move initiative. This is particularly relevant because of the scaling back and cancellation of physical education classes due to budget cuts. In 2006, only 3.8 percent of elementary schools, 7.9 percent of middle schools, and 2.1 percent of high schools provided the minimum level of weekly physical activity as recommended by the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (150 minutes per week for elementary-school-aged children and 225 minutes per week for middle and high school students). [NB: The 2010 report says only one state meets this benchmark.] Only eight states require that students take physical education every year from first through twelfth grade. [NB: The 2010 report says five states.]  22 states (43 percent) allow required physical education credits to be earned through online courses. Less than one-third of all children ages 6-17 engage in “vigorous activity” (physical activity for at least 20 minutes that makes the child sweat and breathe hard.  [Commentary added in brackets.]
As Etzioni says about 'Let's Move,' "One cannot help but wonder how and why a program that started so well is leaning so heavily in one direction, when it would do much better if it moved on both legs."

Well, I think it's pretty obvious. I had P.E. every year and every term in middle school and high school, four days a week--and I couldn't get out of any of it thanks to my afterschool sports. Right now in Michigan, students need to get 1.0 of high school credit in physical and health education (that is the equivalent of one class for two semesters), with the recommendation being to split that 50/50. Districts and schools can permit students to substitute the P.E. credit for interscholastic sports, JRROTC, and marching band or cheerleading.
Read more about Michigan's regulations here. In case you're wondering, we don't meet the benchmarks for the amount of exercise per week or for the requirement that students take physical education every year.

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