Children who got up to 200 minutes of physical-education time each week had more muscle mass and strength than peers who had the regular 60 minutes of activity weekly, Swedish researchers reported in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. The extra time also did not increase children's risk of broken bones, the study found.
A report by the Government Accountability Office found that about 25% of schools nationwide offer physical-education courses three times per week, although many schools offer more sports opportunities. The report and other data are being reviewed by Congress as lawmakers consider proposals to increase the amount of physical activity children receive in schools.
The Kennewick School District in Washington used a federal grant to give its physical-education program a more structured curriculum, new equipment and teacher training and materials. In three years, the district has seen improvements in test scores on fitness and nutrition concepts and more physically fit students.
In the 10 years he's been at the helm of Frick Middle School's physical education program, former professional boxing judge Kermit Bayless has run a strict, boot-camp style program that cuts no breaks to students who forget to bring in their gym clothes. At the predominantly poor, black and Latino school, more than 68% of seventh-graders last year passed the California fitness test, compared with 16% of all seventh-graders citywide.
Last spring, the Minneapolis school district began offering online
physical education courses to help busy students fulfill state
mandates. Students meet face-to-face with their teacher at the
beginning and end of the semester, e-mail their weekly coursework and
keep journals to show their progress.