Oklahoma was one of several states that dropped physical education requirements several years ago to concentrate more on classroom instruction. Oklahoma requires only 60 minutes of moderate physical activity weekly for students in kindergarten and in grades 1 through 5, as compared with the 60 minutes per day advocated for by the American Academy of Pediatrics. In 2007, a series of hearings led the State Legislature to conclude that Oklahoma’s physical education requirements lagged behind those of other states.
The House Education Subcommittee in Oklahoma has now approved House Bill 2574 designed to fight childhood obesity by encouraging more physical fitness in school children. Passed unanimously, the bill would extend physical education requirements to more elementary and middle school grades and increase the number of minutes of physical fitness activities required of Oklahoma students.
Beginning in 2009-2010, the new proposal would increase the recommended exercise level to 150 minutes per week and extend the requirement beyond grade 5 to grade 6. Grades 7 and 8 would be subject to a 100 minute per week requirement. The bill’s sponsor has emphasized that the physical activity need not necessarily mean sports; it can include such activities as dancing, walking, or jumping rope. The bill must now be considered by the House Education Committee.
The causes of obesity are numerous, but even the litigation-minded would presumably concede that too little exercise contributes to the problem. Perhaps this proposal, if passed, will help to decrease the scope of the problems in Oklahoma.