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“Healthy Schools” Means More Physical Exercise

December 14th, 2009 · No Comments · Posted in kids, Wellness

Kids need more exercise in school

Kids need more exercise in school

Free breakfast. No sodas. More vegetables. Physical exercise.

These are the cornerstones of sweeping “Healthy Schools” legislation (previous posts here, here, here and here) introduced last week in the D.C. Council. Parents and nutritionists across the country have watched with alarm in recent years as children have become increasingly obese and even fallen victim to adult diseases such as diabetes while schools introduced more and more junk food and cut back on physical exercise. 

The bill introduced by D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) and Council Chairman Vincent C. Gray (D), in addition to eliminating sodas and sugary beverages from all public schools and phasing in new nutritional standards, would require physical exercise in all schools through the eighth grade.

Specifically, students in Kindergarten through grade 5 would be required to participate in at least 150 minutes (two and one-half hours) of physical education classes each week, while grades 6 through 8 would have 225 minutes (three and three-quarters hours). At least half of that class time would have to be devoted to “actual physical activity,” according to the bill, “with as much class time as possible spent in moderate physical activity.”

Physical education would be “designed, implemented, and evaluated to help students develop the knowledge, motor skills, self-management skills, attitudes and confidence needed to adopt and maintain physical acitivity throughout their lives.”

The bill does not set forth exercise standards for high schoolers. Individual schools could be exempted from the standards if they can show they do not have the facilities to implement them.

Physical activity is part of a broad health and wellness initiative in the bill. In addition to requiring schools to promote local wellness policies to faculty, staff, parents and students, the proposal calls on the city’s health department, the public schools and the Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization to “develop a plan” for establishing and operating “wellness centers” in all of the city’s high schools by 2015. It does not specify exactly what those centers would do.

The legislation would also establish a “Healthy Youth and Schools Commission” to advise the mayor and D.C. Council on “health, wellness, and nutritional issues concerning youth and schools in the District.” The commission would have a broad mandate to evaluate health and nutrition programs citywide and recommend standards, best practices and programs.

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