Extrapolated from Health Policy Brief, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, May 2011
Many California Teens Do Not Participate in Physical Education
California requires 400 minutes of physical education every 10 days for middle and high school students. Despite these requirements, more than one third (38% of California adolescents, 1.3 million teens in all) report not participating in PE at school. Moreover, the percentage of teens participating in PE drops precipitously with age, from 95% participation at age 12 to just 23% at age 17 in part because many high
school students obtain exemptions from PE for the last two years of school. This decline in PE participation with age is consistent with national estimates. Furthermore, participation in PE is higher among boys than girls (66% vs. 59%, respectively).
Experts recommend daily participation in PE to increase physical activity among youth and promote the development of healthy exercise habits. Increasing the number of schools that require daily PE is also a Healthy People 2020 goal. Despite this, only 42% of California teens report participating in PE on a daily basis. Furthermore, daily PE participation varies considerably with age, dropping from 62% among 12 year olds to just 15% among 17 year olds.
California Teens Don’t Get Enough Physical Activity
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity for children and teens. In California less than one-fifth of adolescents (19%) are physically active for at least 60 minutes every day (Exhibit 3). Although rates are low for both boys and girls, 25% of boys meet current physical activity recommendations compared to just 13% of girls. These findings are consistent with national
data. In 2009, 18% of high school students nationally had participated in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on each of the past seven days, with 24% of boys and 11% of girls attaining this level of physical activity.
Participation in Physical Education at School Linked to More Overall Physical Activity
School-based PE is an effective method for increasing physical activity and improving physical fitness among youth. For California adolescents, participating in physical education is associated with an additional 18 minutes of physical activity each week, adjusting for age, gender, race and income. These results suggest that participating in PE can contribute to increased levels of overall physical activity for California teens.
Quality middle and high school physical education programs exist
SPARK, developed by researchers and educators at San Diego State University, disseminates two, evidence-based secondary physical education programs: SPARK Middle School and SPARK High School. Each offers CA physical educators innovative and standards-based curricular materials, training, content-matched equipment, and extensive follow up support.