By Chuck Corbin, Arizona State University
In an earlier blog I wrote about the health benefits of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) for youth. Youth who meet national MVPA guidelines reap many health benefits. But how is our nation doing in achieving MVPA guidelines? Every two years the National Physical Activity Plan Alliance publishes the Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. The report uses an A–F scale:
Here is a summary of the national report card grades for areas that most relate to schools and physical education.
Overall Physical Activity, Grade D−
- Only 24% of children ages 6 to 17 participate in 60 minutes of MVPA daily.
- As kids grow older, they become less active: 43% of 6- to 11-year-olds vs 26% of 16- to 19-year-olds meet national guidelines.
- The guidelines are met by twice as many high school boys as girls.
- A low proportion of youth with “disabling conditions” meet activity guidelines.
Sedentary Behaviors (Lying Down or Sitting), Grade D−
- About two-thirds of youth ages 6 to 19 engage in two or more hours of screen time daily.
- More than 40% of high school students use electronic devices for more than three hours daily.
- Girls (38%) have more daily screen time than boys (28%).
- Older youth have more screen time than younger kids.
School, Grade D−
- Only 30% of high school students attend PE five days a week.
- Among sixth graders, 92% take some PE each week; that is true of only 42% of high school youth.
- Policies to support walking and biking to school are found in 33% of school districts.
- PE teachers are required to have a degree in 71% of elementary school districts, 74% of middle school districts, and 81% of high school districts.
- Almost all schools have policies requiring PE or physical activity for students with “disabling conditions.”
Active Transportation (Walking or Biking), Grade D−
- Just 38% of youth do 10 minutes or more of active transportation at least once a week.
- Only 13% of youth ages 5 to 14 usually walk or bike to school.
- For 62% of students, walking or biking is the transportation method on zero days.
- Boys (45%) use active transportation more often than girls (32%).
Physical Fitness, C−
- Among youth ages 12 to 15, 42% have healthy levels of cardiorespiratory fitness.
- Among youth ages 6 to 15, 52% have healthy levels of muscular endurance.
- Among those between the ages of 2 and 19, 19% of boys and 18% of girls are obese.
Organized Sport Participation, Grade C
- Organized sports are played by 56% of kids ages 6 through 12, but only 37% play on a regular basis.
- Half of kids play unorganized or individual sports.
- In high school, 54% of youth play at least one sport during the year.
- Around 25% to 30% of youth with “disabling conditions” play sports.
- There are 30% of low-income kids who play no sports, while that is true of only 12% of high-income youth.
Active Play, Grade Incomplete
- Recess is required in 65% of schools.
- Among principals, 80% agree that recess aids academic achievement.
- Classroom activity breaks are required in 11% of elementary schools, 8% of middle schools, and 2% of high schools.
As previously noted, the health benefits of MVPA for youth are many. Yet our nation has not made a commitment to providing youth with adequate opportunities for meeting national guidelines and achieving resulting benefits. Physical educators can use the national report card data to educate the public and school officials about the current lack of commitment and perhaps use it to gain support for more physical education in schools.
National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. (2018). The 2018 Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. Washington, DC: National Physical Activity Plan Alliance. Retrieved from http://physicalactivityplan.org/projects/reportcard.html
Chuck practices what he preaches. After 45 years of teaching, researching, writing, and promoting regular healthy lifestyles, he walks, plays golf, does his own yard work, and does regular core and muscle fitness exercises. He enjoys playing his guitar as well as traveling with his wife of 56 years and being with his four granddaughters. Learn more about the books written by Chuck, including the Fitness for Life and Health for Life resources.