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State Leaders Can Promote Student Success by Prioritizing Physical Education


Alexandria, VA – Recent studies from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggest that the widespread school closures during the pandemic affected more than just students’ academic and social-emotional well-being: America’s children are less physically active, and childhood obesity is rising at a staggering rate. A new NASBE analysis details how state boards of education can support equitable access to physical activity and quality physical education through policymaking, convening, and community partnerships.

“Schools are in a unique position to support students’ health and emotional well-being,” write the report’s authors. “Providing multiple opportunities for all students to participate in physical activities that are age and ability appropriate and enjoyable is key.”

The CDC recommends that children and adolescents engage in 60 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous activity daily, and state leaders can support the quality of physical education (PE) through learning standards, educator preparedness, and adaptive PE for students with disabilities. Adopting a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program can also help promote increased physical activity for students.

According to NASBE’s State Policy Database on School Health, only nine states require daily recess for students of all ages or in certain grades. Overlooked opportunities such as ensuring students have safe routes for walking, biking, or rolling to and from school and setting up shared-use agreements to allow after-hours access to school gymnasiums, fields, and playgrounds can help boost students’ activity levels. States like Arkansas, Michigan, and Virginia have leveraged community partnerships to ensure such opportunities are available.

The pandemic presents an opportunity for state leaders to reignite and support efforts to improve student physical activity in education. “By creating an inclusive culture for PE and physical activity, state boards can help ensure that every student learns to lead a healthy, active life,” write the authors.

Read and share Reengaging Students through Physical Activity.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the CDC.

NASBE serves as the only membership organization for state boards of education. A nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, NASBE elevates state board members’ voices in national and state policymaking, facilitates the exchange of informed ideas, and supports members in advancing equity and excellence in public education for students of all races, genders, and circumstances. Learn more at www.nasbe.org.

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