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California kids physically unfit,
leading "sedentary lives"

Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service

January 28, 2007

The dismal data came in November, revealing California's public school students performed poorly on the state's physical fitness test. This week, The California Endowment has released a report documenting what they call "a crisis in California school physical education."

The study conducted in 77 public schools, found that on average, only four minutes of every half hour of physical education class involves vigorous physical activity. In addition, elementary schools surveyed fell 32 minutes short on average of the required 200 minutes of minimum physical education mandated to occur every 10 days by state law.

"In order to combat California's child obesity epidemic, we must make physical education a higher priority in California's schools," said Dr. Robert K. Moss, president and CEO of The California Endowment.

Of the 77 schools surveyed, including schools in 11 Bay Area elementary school districts, only Palo Alto Unified in Santa Clara and Oak Grove Elementary in Sonoma made the grade for their physical fitness performance.

Upon reviewing results of the state physical fitness exam in November, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell said California physical fitness scores "show a modest 1 percent gain in overall performance compared to last year's results.''

O'Connell said, "These numbers tell us that too many of our students are leading sedentary lives exacerbated by poor eating habits. This is a destructive trend that has resulted in an epidemic of childhood obesity and must be reversed.''

The endowment found students in lower income schools tended to spend less time being active in physical education classes and that students in large physical education classes only spent 10 percent of class time being active.

"It is clear from these studies that low quality PE is contributing to health disparities. We must quickly adopt these practices in schools serving low-income students who are at greatest risk of obesity," said Dr. Antoinette Yancey co-author of Failing Fitness, in a statement.

"Particularly notable is that schools with the highest quality most active PE had higher achievement test scores," James F. Sallis, director of the Active Living Research Program at San Diego State University said in a statement.

"We should be very concerned, for our student's health, their academic success and the long-term effects this will have," O'Connell said in November.

The endowment has outlined suggestions to help shape-up California's physical education policies. The endowment recommends smaller class sizes, with classes taught by qualified instructors, funding to improve athletic facilities in low-income schools, enforcement of state minimum requirements, and an enhanced value of physical education within school communities.

"We strongly urge educators, parents, local officials and state policymakers to apply these reports' recommendations to address the deficiencies in physical education classes throughout the state," said California Endowment CEO Moss.

Copyright © 2007 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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