There are rules and regulations in New York for how often students must be in a physical education class. With all the benefits of physical literacy, it's not surprising, but what may be surprising is how few schools meet that requirement with accountability lost under other mandates and bureaucracy.
School aged children across the country stuggle with a host of health behavior and developmental problems in the pandemic. SUNY Cortland Professor of Exercise Science Dr. Timothy David wants New York parents to know the state regulations on P.E. and that, usually, they aren't happening.
At SUNY Cortland, Davis teaches not just how vital physical education is, but how fun it can be.
"In physical education, we do stibular, tactile and proprioception. [Kindergarten] through [third grade] is basically daily physical education, and we want to see our kids receiving daily physical education so they can be active and engaged. It's not recess, it's not after school, it's quality physical education taught by a trained physical education teacher," says Davis.
New York's own regulation states that all pupils in grades K through three shall participate in the physical education program on a daily basis, all pupils in grades four through six shall participate in the physical education program, Not less than three times each week, the minimum time devoted to such programs, K through six shall be at least 120 minutes in each calendar week.
"It's difficult for school districts to do this as it relates to scheduling," says Davis. "It's often a scheduling issue more so than it is a staffing issue. In our profession, we talk a lot about being physically literate. Well, what does that mean? Physical literacy is this idea that, hey, I'm confident in my shoes wherever I stand and I can go play and be confident in myself, in whatever aspect that looks like."
"Childhood obesity is literally off the charts. This should be our number one issue that we should be addressing is by providing physical activity throughout the day for our kids, not just in physical education - that's one component of that's really important - and we're not even meeting those state guidelines. When we sit, our brains actually become less active and we can see, on a scientific level, the brain actually begin to shut down the longer we sit and the longer we're inactive, the more we have all kids moving at the same time, the better off our kids are going to be."
The New York State Department of Education was not immediately available for a comment on this subject. In an email, they responded, "The NYSED does not collect class data of [P.E.] instruction, as this is tracked locally."