Physical activity requirements changing for grades K-6

JACKSON, Tenn. — May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, but how active are our kids?

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 5.06.23 PMThe State Comptroller’s Office released statistics after researching physical activity in Tennessee’s public schools.

Currently, the state of Tennessee requires public school K-12 students to participate in 90 minutes of some form of physical activity a week.

“It could be a variety of things,” Jackson-Madison County School System Health Administrator Annette Wilson said. “It could be doing physical activity in the classrooms, walking, some type of aerobic exercise in the classroom, and some do have recess.”

Approximately 25 percent of Tennessee high school students indicated they were physically active for one hour per day. The national rate was 27.1 percent.

The national rate for high school students who attended physical education class at least once per week was 48 percent while Tennessee’s rate was 40.1 percent.

Physical activity includes activities such as recess or walking. Tennessee law currently requires elementary and secondary students receive at least 90 minutes per week of physical activity, but beginning on July 1, state law will begin requiring the equivalent of 225 minutes per week for grades K-1 and 160 minutes for grades 2-6.

The current requirement for grades 7-12 of 90 minutes per week will remain unchanged. Schools are prohibited by law from counting walking between classes toward meeting the physical activity requirement.

Private schools in the area say they don’t have to comply with the state’s standards but believe that physical activity is essential to the learning process.

“The research is out there to prove that there is a direct correlation between physical movement and improved cognitive performance,” University School of Jackson President Stuart Hirstein said. “Also, recess and physical education help children to develop social skills that are otherwise not acquired in the more structured classroom environment. You will find students more attentive and better behaved after regular breaks to move and be active. When you think about educating the whole child, movement and exercise must be considered a vital part of any program. It also will hopefully help the childhood obesity problem in our country.”

Elementary students at Jackson Christian spend at least 30 minutes playing outside or in their gym depending on the weather, as well as an hour-long physical activity class at least once a week.

“They are going to be engaged in maybe a pickup game of football or they are on the playground equipment, but they are not allowed to just sit during recess. They have to be active. They have to be moving,” Director of Advancement Chris Ramey said.

JCS high school students are required to take one PE elective but nothing else is required, according to their athletic director.

Districts will have to determine how they will restructure the new school day to meet the new minimum physical activity requirements.