Kids fall short of federal guidelines
Jim Steinberg, Staff Writer
Created: 05/30/2011 07:02:01 AM PDT

More than one third of all adolescents enrolled in California public schools do not participate in any school-based physical education classes, according to a new policy study by UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Cuts to physical education 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, which was released today,found that the number 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, 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.

Federal public health officials recommend adolescents get 60 minutes of exercise daily.

“This numbers are likely worse today” given the difficult financial times California school districts are facing, said Susan H. Babey, a researcher with the Center for Health Policy Research and a study co-author.

San Bernardino County ranked higher than the state average, with an average of 3.3 days of physical education, compared to 2.7 across the state and 2.3 days in Orange County, 2.4 days in Riverside County and 2.7 days in Los Angeles County.

Research shows 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, the study said.

“Physical fitness is an intrinsic part of the educational process, not something to be sidelined or avoided,” said Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment, which funded the study.

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