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We cannot undervalue the importance of physical education in early childhood. Unfortunately, studies show that children today do not get enough physical activity.

Alarming statistics from the CDC:

  • Less than one-quarter of children ages 6 to 17 participate in 60 minutes of physical activity daily.
  • Only 25% of high school students exercise for 60 minutes each day of the week.
  • Less than 30% of students in grades 9-12 attend physical education classes daily.

Shockingly, this CDC data is over five years old. More recent data shows a further decline in physical activity by our young people. Follow along as we explore several reasons this may be happening and what you can do about it.

Why Aren’t Kids Getting Enough Physical Activity

Physical Activity at School

Bored at School

Do you depend on the school system as the main component of your child’s daily activity? Unfortunately, maintaining a healthy physical activity level is no longer a priority at school.

Many, if not most, school systems cut physical education when the states implemented high-stakes standardized testing.

Many education leaders thought physical, music, and art education time would be better spent on literacy and mathematics. So, they reduced physical education or cut it out entirely from school curriculums. Ironically, test scores flattened or went down and incidents of misbehavior, tardiness, and mental health issues rose.

Physical Activity at Home

on screens at home

Other factors are to blame as well. Time spent on social media and computer games plays a prominent role. COVID-19 played another role, but the decline in the health of our young folks was rapidly falling before COVID-19.

The need for affordable sports teams and facilities plagues many neighborhoods. For many parents, cost and accessibility are barriers for their children. The ever-increasing work schedules of many parents exacerbate the problem.

Without Daily Physical Activity

  • Children tend to pay attention less in class, which can cause behavior problems, distracting your child from learning.
  • Children have lower immune systems and become ill more easily.
  • Kids have a higher risk for depression.
  • A correlation exists between the rising healthcare costs in the United States and our children’s fitness levels.

What to do About It

  1. Support increasing physical education in schools.
  2. Talk with your school administrator about a physical education program and get involved.
  3. Ask your child’s teacher if they incorporate movement in the classroom.
  4. Use the National Institute of Health’s ‘Active Based Learning‘ as a guide for adding movement to a regular classroom.
  5. Prioritize physical exercise at home. Find an exercise you and your child both enjoy, then do it regularly.
  6. Restrict the amount of time your child uses screens.
  7. Download a free exercise app that your child enjoys using.
  8. Join up with neighbors and friends to participate in physical activity.

Some Favorite Examples

push ups at school
  • I had my elementary school students do ‘math fitness.’ Two students faced off answered a math question, and did the same number of push-ups as the answer.
  • I know of one apartment community where parents banded together to start an after-school exercise club. The children would walk to each apartment, do one physical fitness activity, then move to the next.

Students Learn Better when they are physically active

The three legs of a child’s fitness are physical, emotional/mental, and spiritual. If one leg of a stool is too short or missing, it becomes unstable. Children need all three to perform at their highest academic level, be mentally sound, and emotionally well-grounded.

It all begins with physical fitness. Start fostering healthy habits in your children today by encouraging them to get active!

For more information check out Learn Bright’s free grade-level lesson plans and videos!