California’s State Physical Education Requirements

California’s State Physical Education Requirement states that students need at least 200 minutes of physical activity per 10 days of instruction. Recess and lunch do not count toward that total. And recently, more than three dozen schools have been named are sliding under the law even as they earn awards for health.

A class-action lawsuit filed by a parent in San Francisco Bay alleges that schools are not meeting their 20 minutes per day requirement for physical fitness. A 2013 state test of student fitness found that only 25.5 percent of fifth graders fit into the healthy fitness zone in six categories. More than one-fourth of each grade level scored low enough to be in the range for health risk.

Lack of physical fitness during childhood can lead to health and image issues during adulthood. Weight gained in childhood is also more difficult to take off, since poor eating habits and lack of exercise have to be unlearned as adults.

Childhood fitness has fallen in recent years thanks to video games and an increase of processed food. For children living in unsafe neighborhoods, a mandatory recess break of 20 minutes might be all the exercise they can get.

School curriculum should have a mandatory focus on health, nutrition and fitness. Failing to do so endangers children and enforces poor eating and exercise habits that will be increasingly difficult to undo as they age.

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